Monday, December 7, 2009
Michael Vick wins over fans in return to Atlanta
By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP)—Michael Vick(notes) had a feeling his return to Atlanta would be special. He could tell by the tears welling in his eyes even before he reached the Georgia Dome.
“I’ll never forget this day,” Vick said after running and passing for touchdowns in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 34-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
The touchdowns were Vick’s first two of his comeback season, and along the way he won over Atlanta fans who spent the first half booing his every move.
I’ll never forget coming back to this stadium,” Vick said. “I’ll never forget the bus ride over here today and I’ll never forget seeing a lot of the landmarks I used to see and I’ll never forget shedding a tear on the bus ride over here. I took that ride every Sunday coming in.”
For the start of the game, Vick’s fans wearing his No. 7 jersey were outnumbered by those who welcomed the former Falcons quarterback with boos.
But Vick won over the crowd by running and passing for touchdowns in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, fans chanted “We want Vick! We want Vick!” Sure enough, Vick came back into the game.
Eagles coach Andy Reid said the chants didn’t affect his plans for Vick, but then he added “It didn’t hurt.”
Vick heard the chants and said “it sent chills all down my spine.
“They were just letting me know that people still appreciate what I’ve done.”
Vick’s return to Atlanta was much-anticipated by his fans. Many wore Vick’s No. 7 Falcons jersey.
“This is the first time I’ve worn this jersey since it happened,” said Norman Judge Camp, 34, of Acworth, Ga., referring to Vick’s 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.
Camp and others said Vick should be forgiven.
Raymon Thomas of Atlanta said he had not forgotten the excitement Vick, the three-time Pro Bowler, brought to the franchise.
“Without Michael Vick, none of this would be going on right here,” said Thomas, who wore a Falcons No. 7 jersey with “Atlanta” instead of “Vick” on the back.
“He’s the one who created all this stuff at the Georgia Dome,” Thomas said. “Before Vick came, the Georgia Dome had none of this. He electrified the fans and the city of Atlanta.”
Maxine Mecca of Supporting the Defense of the Animals said she came to the game to defend the reputation of pit bulls.
“It’s not about Michael Vick,” Mecca said. “I think it’s gone beyond that. He’s done his time. It’s about awareness and the pit bull breed. It’s not the breed. It’s the people behind the breed and this is about making people aware of that.”
There were no protests from the Humane Society or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Vick was at the front of the pack of Eagles players as the team ran onto the field, and he was selected to serve as a team captain.
“I knew something special was going to happen this week,” Vick said. “I knew Andy was going to think something up. … He wanted me to have success today and he knew how to do it.”
Reid said “everybody rallied around Mike. … The fans in general, calling Michael’s name out, I give my hat off to them for giving him a second chance.”
Vick was greeted with a hug from his former Falcons center, Todd McClure(notes), before the coin toss. Atlanta receiver Roddy White(notes) also embraced Vick before the game. Vick also talked with Falcons owner Arthur Blank on the field before the game.
“We just talked about periodically staying in touch,” Vick said.
There were more boos than cheers when Vick made his first appearance on the Eagles’ opening drive. He ran for 3 yards after taking the snap and returned to more boos two plays later and ran for 4 yards. That was his only action of the first half.
The boos turned to cheers when Vick scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter for his first touchdown of the season.
It was Vick’s first rushing touchdown since Oct. 15, 2006 with Atlanta. He added a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek(notes) in the fourth quarter.