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Fans embrace Michael Vick’s return to the field in Atlanta with the AFFL

People turned out in force to see Vick play football once again.

Photo by Christopher B. Kelley

It’s been 12 years since Michael Vick last took the field for the Falcons. But fans turned out in droves on Saturday night to watch him play football once again in Atlanta.

Vick and his team, the Roadrunners, took on Chad Ochocinco and his Team Ocho in the American Flag Football League semifinals at Kennesaw State University’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Saturday night. Turnovers in the end zone led to the Roadrunners’ 26-13 loss to Ocho. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of fans who were primarily there to see the former Falcons star play.

And fans were treated to a show. In the first game on Saturday night, Team Fighting Cancer absolutely demolished Team Primetime with a 35-14 route in the American’s Team bracket matchup. On Sunday evening, Code Red will take on The Money Team to determine who will face off against Fighting Cancer in the finals next weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana. And Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson and former NFL running back Justin Forsett’s Godspeed will face off against three-time NBA slam dunk contest champion Nate Robinson’s Holddat to see who will take on Ocho in the pro bracket finals next weekend.

A predictable number of fans wearing Falcons jerseys were in the stands, But there were fans there supporting Vick with gear from every stage of his career.

Locals Chris Finazzo and Luke Stooksbury were there on Saturday night to enjoy seeing former NFL greats back on the field. But they were especially there to see Vick.

Stooksbury was too young to really appreciate Vick when he was with the Falcons, but he became a fan later.

“When I got into football, his highlights — no one really played the game like he did and no one could ever compare to the way he played,” Stooksbury said.

So how did he end up in an Eagles Vick jersey?

“I saw it at this store that shares all the jerseys and stuff and I just had to get it because it’s pretty rare, I feel like,” Stooksbury said.

Finazzo, who is from the Atlanta area, became a diehard Jets fan because his whole family is from New York. He technically wasn’t wearing a Vick jersey, but he got creative.

Photo by Christopher B. Kelley

“I’m a lifelong diehard Jets fan, but Vick had his one year there,” Finazzo said. “But this really isn’t his jersey. This is Geno Smith’s. So Vick had to wear No. 1, but everybody knows the iconic No. 7.”

Harold D. Maddox and Taylor Maddox both started following Vick’s career when he was with the Falcons, but their fandom went in different ways after Vick’s time in Atlanta was done.

Photo by Christopher B. Kelley

Harold D. Maddox had a great time watching Vick and the rest of the athletes play.

“It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful,” he said. “It makes me want to go out there.”

Taylor Maddox specifically loved seeing Vick back on a football field.

“It feels good. I just couldn’t believe it, he was really here. It feels good,” she said.

Taylor loved Vick when he was in Atlanta, but when he signed with the Eagles, Vick took her fandom along with him. It was rewarding to her to see the way that he reconciled with the team when he was honored at the half of the final game in the Georgia Dome in Week 17 of the 2016 season.

“I’m not going to lie, it made me a little emotional, because I missed him being in the game,” she said. “I missed him playing. I prefer him over Matt Ryan, I’m not going to lie.”

Vick even had supporters there who have been fans since his college days. Isaac Trice lives in Atlanta now, but he grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Vick first entered the national consciousness as Virginia Tech’s star quarterback. Decked out in a Hokies shirt, Trice told The Falcoholic what Vick means to the community in Blacksburg.

“Well, I grew up (in Blacksburg, Virginia). So I was in first grade, kindergarten when Michael Vick was playing there, and he was a celebrity — Superman,” Trice said. “And when you look at the population of Blacksburg, you can actually see a huge spike after Vick was there. So when people talk about him going through all of this stuff that he’s gone through, you have to realize how much he’s meant for a small town like us. And so whether it’s just a little thing of some mom and pop shops being able to stay open because we have those extra people staying in town — people don’t see that.

“So I really encourage people to look, really, at the fact that he took a small town and really put us on the map.”

Trice was able to meet Vick on Saturday night and he got a special piece of memorabilia signed.

Vick clearly still means a lot to the Atlanta community, too, and he had a ton of support when he took the field on Saturday night. The Roadrunners’ season is done, but fans won’t soon forget the experience of seeing Vick play in Atlanta one more time.