T.I. packs arena before heading to prison

May 25, 2009 5:45:12 AM PDT
Grammy-winning rapper T.I. told fans he would stay optimistic when he heads to prison on a federal weapons conviction. The 28-year-old rapper, whose real name is Clifford J. Harris Jr., performed for a packed audience Sunday night in Atlanta's Philips Arena less than two days before he is to begin serving the sentence of a year and a day. "I'm going to stand up tall, head up high," he said. "Thank you for all of your support."

Many in the packed crowd of about 16,000 people held up encouraging signs, like one reading "T.I. We Will Miss U!"

He must report by noon Tuesday to the Federal Correction Institution at Forrest City, Ark. He was arrested after prosecutors said he tried to buy unregistered machine guns and silencers from undercover federal agents in 2007.

During the concert, T.I. said he hoped that everyone learned from his mistakes. He brought his five children on stage, often holding one of them while he performed "No Matter What" - a single off the almost double-platinum album "Paper Trail."

T.I., who won a Grammy for "Swagga Like Us," also performed all his hits from "What You Know" to "Bring 'Em Out" to his recent chart-topping singles "What Ever You Like" and "Live Your Life." Teenage rapper Soulja Boy also joined him on stage.

"What I need y'all to do is pray for me while I'm gone," he said. "I'll see y'all in 366 days."

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