Atlanta Homecoming for Vick

The fans are all pumped up about the return of Michael Vick --some eager to cheer again for the former Falcons star, others looking forward to heckling him for his shameful actions off the field.

For the players, it's a different outlook. There's a huge game to play on Sunday, and No. 7 is unlikely to have much of an impact when the Falcons host Vick's new team, the Eagles.

“It's really not a topic of conversation for the players here. We're concentrating on winning these last five games,” Atlanta fullback Ovie Mughelli said. ``Mike coming back is a great thing. We wish him the best as always. But that's not what we're concentrating on.”

No need to. Vick, in his first game against his former team since serving 18 months in prison for dogfighting, is nothing more than a sideshow based on his first nine games with the Eagles.

The player who once electrified the NFL is a spare part for Philadelphia (7-4), spending most of his time on the sideline. Donovan McNabb is the undisputed starter at quarterback while Vick bides his time, staying out of trouble, preaching against the evils of dogfighting and no doubt hoping he'll get a shot at some real playing time in 2010.

Meanwhile, there's a game that could have a huge impact on the NFC playoffs. The Eagles are tied with Green Bay for the wild-card lead, the Falcons (6-5) are just one game back and eager to gain the upper hand on Philadelphia in case there's a playoff tiebreaker.

As the Eagles hope to pull out a win this Sunday, Vick has a message for all those Atlanta fans he let down with his gruesome activities off the field.

“I would say I'm not the same person I was when I left in 2007,” he said. “I've been through a lot, seen a lot, had to deal with a lot. Going through certain experiences, you mature a great deal. You never know how much you mature until you are put in a similar situation. Those situations I handled pretty well and much different than I would a couple years ago.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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