Michael Vick returns to Atlanta to boos, leaves with 2 TDs and cheers
Back in the city he once ruled, Michael Vick put up a pair of touchdowns -- one running, the other passing, both of them his first since 2006 -- and basked in the cheers of the Georgia Dome crowd as the Eagles dominated the short-handed Falcons 34-7.
"It was as loud as it gets in the Dome," said Vick, who teared up on the bus ride over to the stadium. "I heard the chants all through the stadium and it sent chills down my spine. They were just letting me know that people still appreciate what I've done."
He was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL before his stunning downfall for dogfighting. After serving prison time and losing two seasons in the prime of his career, he’s trying to rebuild it all as a backup in Philadelphia.
Vick ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the third quarter, his first since Oct. 15, 2006. With the game out of hand, he slipped a 5-yard scoring pass to Brent Celek early in the fourth, his first TD throw since that final season with the Falcons.
"It couldn’t have happened at a better time," Vick said. "I want to become one of the top quarterbacks in this league again."
The Eagles (8-4) pulled two games ahead of the reeling Falcons (6-6) in the NFC wild-card standings, bringing a little more clarity to the playoff race. But most of the attention was on Vick’s first game in Atlanta since he left the city in disgrace.
Vick was showered with boos when he came in for a couple of snaps on Philadelphia’s opening possession. By the fourth quarter, the fans -- many of them wearing No. 7 jerseys -- were chanting "We want Vick! We want Vick!"
"You were seeing a guy in his element," said Eagles starting QB Donovan McNabb, who gave Vick a long hug after the TD pass to Celek. "I think he was just relishing the moment."
Deciding that two touchdowns was enough, especially with Vick bothered by a sore hand, Philadelphia coach Andy Reid let third-stringer Kevin Kolb finish out of the game, much to the chagrin of those fans who hoped the ex-Falcon would get even more playing time.
Before the game, Vick chatted with Falcons owner Arthur Blank and several former teammates, including receiver Roddy White. When it was time to get down to business, No. 7 led the Eagles out of the tunnel, served as one of the captains for the coin toss and came in on Philadelphia’s fifth and seventh plays from scrimmage.
"Everybody rallied around him," Reid said. "I'm sure he had a little extra juice going."
After taking those first two snaps, Vick just watched -- until the Eagles faced third-and-1 at the Atlanta 5 on the opening drive of the third quarter, leading only 13-0 in a game they had dominated. Vick lined up in a shotgun and pulled off the sort of play that was so familiar when he played for the home team.
He sprinted to his right, cut sharply to his left, broke a tackle and dove into the end zone for a touchdown that seemed to lift a huge weight off his shoulders. With the boos now drowned out by thunderous cheers, Vick pulled away from his teammates and headed toward the stands.
His flip toward the crowd deflected off the net and landed in the hands of fullback Leonard Weaver, who turned toward Vick, apparently to ask if he wanted to keep it. Already heading toward the bench, Vick pointed toward the stands and Weaver managed to get it to a fan.
Vick did keep the ball after his TD pass. And when it was done, he lingered on the field for interviews, then trotted off with both arms raised before blowing kisses in all directions.
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-- Associated Press
Top photo: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) reacts as he comes off the field following a 34-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons in an NFL football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009. It was Vick's first return to Atlanta and the Georgia Dome after a conviction for dogfighting. Credit: AP Photo/Dave Martin
Middle photo: Fans cheer for Michael Vick #7 (not pictured) of the Philadelphia Eagles during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 6, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Bottom photo: A fan boos as former Atlanta Falcons and current Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick enters the game in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Falcons, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009 in Atlanta. Vick was playing in his first game in Atlanta since serving time in prison for dogfighting. Credit: AP Photo/Dave Martin