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Day 2: Herschel Walker gains notice for ride

NASCAR.com

TUCSON, Ariz. -- At 52 years old, Herschel Walker still looks like he could pound through almost any defensive line for at least a few yards.
      
Instead, this week it's mileage on the mind of the former Heisman Trophy winner. He's participating for the ninth straight year in the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, and he's easily the most physically fit rider among the 200 on the road from California to Florida.
      
Seventeen years after retiring from professional football, the former University of Georgia star running back maintains a daily fitness regimen that keeps his body in peak condition. He has participated in Mixed Martial Arts matches and says he might have one more in him before leaving that sport.

Since being introduced to the Petty Ride about a decade ago, Walker has been one of the ride's main attractions. He signs autographs at every stop along the way, records a string of television interviews and smiles for photographs with young kids who have no clue about the power with which he once roamed football fields.
      
"I'm sort of like a crazy football player all the time," Walker said. "If I'm going to do anything, I'm going to try to do it well. I don't care what it is. Since I want to be on this ride, I think I have to help see what I could do."
   
Walker, who operates several businesses, participates in the ride as a sponsor and has brought several other riders into the fold.
      
"I had followed Richard Petty -- I call him Mr. Petty -- racing and watched Kyle race, but I only got to know them about 10 years ago," he said. "I fell in love with them and what they're doing. They're so real. I've been all over the world and met all types of people, but I haven't forgotten who I am, and that's important. The Pettys are special people in that way."
      
Walker has visited the Victory Junction Gang Camp and seen what people describe as the magic there.
      
"I see the young kids there who have been with their parents 24/7," he said. "The parents have never left that child. You see the parents leave their child there, and when they come back, the kid doesn't want to go home. They have such a great time. Kyle has really put something special together through honoring his son (Adam), and I think I have to help see what I can do."
      
An ultimate athlete, Walker has no problem deciding where he stands on the occasional debate concerning whether race car drivers are athletes.
      
"There's no doubt that they are," he said. "You get in that car, you better be in shape. Conditioning is so important, no matter what sport you're in, as to how you finish. Sometimes you get exhausted and start losing it. It can play tricks on you.
      
"I've driven a car at about 170 on a track almost alone. You put more cars out there, inches apart. That requires an athlete."
 
Day 2 recap
 
Started: Tucson, Arizona.
Finished: Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Miles traveled: 360.3.

Notes: The second day of the ride, across the Desert Southwest, brought more soaring temperatures and calls from ride organizers for participants to stay hydrated. Saturday's high of 103 degrees along the route in Arizona forced some riders into air-conditioned vehicles. Their bikes were placed into trucks temporarily. ? A highlight of Sunday's run was a stop in Tombstone, Arizona, an infamous Old West town that was the site of the historic shootout at the OK Corral.

Monday's route: Las Cruces, New Mexico to Cloudcroft, New Mexico; to Carlsbad, New Mexico; to Midland, Texas.

Donate: The Kyle Petty Charity Ride raises money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a summer camp for chronically ill children. To donate, victoryjunction.org.


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Day 2 recap
 
Started:
Tucson, Arizona.
Finished: Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Miles traveled: 360.3.

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