Michael Vick thrilled Georgia Dome fans for six seasons. Many of them felt betrayed by subsequent events that led to Vick doing jail time for his role in a dogfighting ring.
He returns as a starter to the dome Sunday with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the reception might not echo that recent history.
Vick remains immensely popular in Atlanta, despite what happened. The cheers outweighed the boos two years ago when he was a third-stringer for Philly, but still threw for one touchdown and ran for another in a 34-7 victory.
He's anything but a third-stringer now.
“That's something I haven't thought about or really don't want to get into,” said Vick, the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2010. “I still have a lot of love for the fans down there, but keep in mind I am with the opposition now. I don't expect it to be in my favor due to the fact that I'm out there full-time, but we'll
see. That's the fun part of the game and we're just going to enjoy the day.”
Enjoying another day in Atlanta - or anywhere - seemed a long shot for Vick after being exiled from the Falcons, and then from the NFL. Now, he is a key performer on a team that went wild in free agency, made a huge trade that sent his backup and erstwhile competitor for the quarterbacking spot, Kevin Kolb, to Arizona. He's also the owner of a $100 million contract.
“Going back as a starter is different than it was in 2009 when I spot-played a little bit and just had an opportunity to go out there and make a couple plays,” he said. “The emotional aspect of it I'm over, but it'll be great to go back to the dome, play
against a former team, have an opportunity to play against some guys that I played with. It's going to be different going back as the starter, but at the same time, it'll be fun.''
It's also a huge game between two of the favorites in the NFC, particularly after the Falcons were beaten handily in Chicago last week. Philly won at St. Louis.