Michael Vick wins over fans in return to Atlanta

ATLANTA (AP) - December 6, 2009

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!"

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 attended the game with his 12-year-old son, Judge Jr. "I feel like he did his time," Camp said. "What happened was wrong. I was one of the biggest Vick fans there was. I had the Fathead on the wall and autographed flags and everything. Just to show my son it was wrong, I threw it all away."

All but the jersey.

Camp and others said Vick should be forgiven. The prison sentence forced the Falcons to sever ties with the player who had been the face of the franchise.

Atlanta drafted quarterback Matt Ryan with the No. 3 overall pick in 2008. The rookie won the starting job right away and led the Falcons to a surprising playoff berth.

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.

"You can't let one mistake control a person's life for the rest of their life. God forgave us and we're supposed to be able to forgive our fellow man."

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.

Camp said he would cheer for Vick only before the game. "When he steps on the field, it's time to go," Camp said. "I don't want him beating us, by no means. I'm a Falcons fan first. After he's gone, I'll put my Vick jersey back in the closet. I'll wear by Michael Turner jersey and I'll wear my (Tony) Gonzalez jersey."

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.

Vick was greeted with a hug from his former Falcons center, Todd McClure, before the coin toss. Atlanta receiver Roddy White also embraced Vick before the game. Vick also talked with Falcons owner Arthur Blank on the field before the game.

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 then heard more boos when he returned to the sideline.

He 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.

Vick, making his first appearance of the second half, replaced starter Donovan McNabb for the third-and-1 play from the Atlanta 5. Vick took the shotgun snap and went straight ahead before diving into the end zone.

Vick tried unsuccessfully to toss the ball into the stands. The ball hit the net behind the goal post and was caught by fullback Leonard Weaver. Vick then pointed to the stands, and Weaver threw the ball to the fans.

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 in the fourth quarter, also his first of the season.

He kept the ball after his touchdown pass. The Eagles' designated third quarterback, Kevin Kolb, took over on the next series.

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