Former NFL star's stolen statue returned

ELMA, N.Y. - October 16, 2009 Thomas gave his wooden likeness a kiss Thursday after a crane unloaded the 1,000-pound pine statue at a sports training facility in Elma, outside Buffalo.

The statue was unveiled in a parking lot at nearby Ralph Wilson Stadium before last Sunday's game. A Canadian man has told police he and some friends later rescued the 8 1/2-foot statue from fans who were trying to burn it.

The statue was retrieved from Welland, Ontario, by the founder Carvings for a Cause, an organization created after thousands of Buffalo-area trees were toppled by a 2006 snowstorm. Proceeds from sales of carvings made from the damaged wood go toward planting new trees.

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