Yesterday's NFL season finales was filled with excitement and playoff implications. The Atlanta Falcons produced one of the most offensively potent seasons in NFL history this season and with them heading into a first round bye, there was much to celebrate for their fans.
In a land of second opportunities and forgiveness, it was fitting that beloved former franchise quarterback Michael Vick made his return to the Georgia Dome.
Vick's shock and awe performances captivated Atlanta fans from 2001-2006 before he served an 18-month prison sentence for dog fighting. He was heavily vilified for his actions and effectively became public enemy #1 among the NFL fanbase.
Vick was welcomed back yesterday with a standing ovation.
"I'm just thankful there's a lot of people here in this organization, in this city … there's a lot of people who have forgave me and gave me an opportunity to show a different side of myself. … I'm just thankful that I got a lot of supporters, and that's all you can ask for," said Vick following his appearance.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank also acknowledged Vick's importance to the organization.
"Michael played an important part in my ownership period and an important part of the history of our franchise," said Blank.
He donned his Falcons number 7 jersey as a reminder of his great and electrifying play as the top overall pick out of Virginia Tech. Vick finished off his storied and tumultuous NFL career last season as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers after a brief stint with the New York Jets and a four-season run with the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed him after his release from prison.
He recently addressed the possibly of retiring as a Falcon on the Jim Rome Show.
"I think that would close out my story and connection with that franchise for what I was able to accomplish in six years," said Vick. "Not by myself, but the entire organization. With the city, the respect and the love was all there. It was genuine. When I think about my career and what I'm identified with, it is the Atlanta Falcons."
Not everyone, though, was thrilled with his appearance. A petition on Change.org had more than 30,000 supporters asking the team not to invite Vick back.
"I think at some point in your life, you have to forgive," Vick said in addressing that who did not welcome him back with open arms. "There's a handful of people -- a lot of people here in this organization, in this city ... there's a lot of people that forgave me. Give me an opportunity to show a different side of myself. That's the candid part I think will really start to exert. I'm just so thankful that I got a lot of support."