It’s all but impossible to remember now, but there was a time when Michael Vick was supposed to be the NFL’s version of Michael Jordan, a game-changing athlete whose every snap was must-watch. For a brief time, he electrified the Georgia Dome while playing for the Atlanta Falcons.
But Vick’s relationship with the fans soured as the big wins didn’t come, and then Vick involved himself in dog fighting that cost him his fortune and, eventually, his freedom. Vick paid his debt to society in prison and his debt to his creditors, and played several seasons of post-prison, post-Falcon football.
On Sunday, at halftime of the Falcons’ final regular-season game, Vick joined several other former Falcon luminaries to bid farewell to the Georgia Dome, which is being replaced by the Mercedes-Benz Stadium rising next door. And according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Schultz, Vick received a warm welcome from the crowd:
Michael Vick comes out with Roddy White as Falcons honor the past here at Georgia Dome. Standing ovation pic.twitter.com/kBMpZm0mFF
— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) January 1, 2017
Granted, not everyone forgives Vick for what he did either as quarterback or as part of a dog-fighting ring. Vick indicated that he understood that, but hoped they could find it in themselves to forgive him.
“I think it’s so important in your life — you have to forgive,” Vick said Sunday prior to the game. “I’m just thankful for the people, a lot of people, here in this organization and in this city. I come and go all the time through the Atlanta airport. A lot of people have forgiven me and given me an opportunity to show a different side of myself. I’m just thankful I have a lot of support and that’s all I can ask for, and I appreciate those people with the utmost humility.”
Vick played six seasons with the Falcons, taking the team to the playoffs twice. Vick’s Falcons knocked off the Packers in Lambeau in 2002, but fell twice to the Eagles, in 2002 and 2004. Vick last visited the Dome in 2011 as quarterback for the Eagles.
Vick technically hasn’t retired from the NFL; he last played a few snaps in 2015 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That could set up, say, a scenario where he signs a one-day contract to retire as a Falcon.
Clearly, this Sunday’s reception indicates that Vick and Atlanta may not be as through with one another as expected.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.