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In 2009, as I sat behind the Philadelphia Eagles bench surrounded by numerous Eagles fans, I took in an experience that stunned me. The Atlanta Falcons fans cheered the very man that sent their franchise into disarray.
It was astonishing to witness. Not only did they cheer but they were going crazy. Sure there were some boos mixed in here and there, but that got drowned out by the overwhelming affection shown for the former Falcons quarterback.
The crowd had countless No. 7 jerseys littered throughout the Georgia Dome in both red and white or green and black. All the old Michael Vick jerseys with the Falcons logo on it were being worn by people cheering for Michael Vick more so than the team their jersey represented.
Then came the fourth quarter. The Eagles had a sizable lead and a game well in hand when they let Vick enter the game for a cameo appearance. Of course, this came after the Atlanta fans serenaded Andy Reid with "We want Vick" chants that drowned out the entire dome.
Vick threw a deep pass and eventually scored on a misdirection play with a pass to tight end Brent Celek. It felt as if the Atlanta Falcons just recorded a safety in a playoff game. That's how loud it was when Vick tossed the touchdown pass.
The circumstances have changed since 2009. The Philadelphia Eagles will be led into the dome this time by Michael Vick not because he's returning home, but because he's their leader.
Maybe the reception for Vick won't be so enthusiastic as it previously was in 2009. However, if Vick rattles off a long run or makes the type of electrifying plays he's accustomed to doing, expect the entire Georgia Dome to be buzzing.
Atlanta loves Michael Vick. Michael Vick loves Atlanta. It's that simple.