By Chris Vivlamore
The Georgia Dome is still Deion Sanders’ house.
“It is that,” the newly inducted member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame said before Sunday’s Falcons-Panthers game.
Sanders has received his Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony. He was inducted in Canton in August.
Sanders said he will always consider Atlanta home after the Falcons selected the cornerback with the fifth overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft out of Florida State.
“It was the first time in my life I had ever been chosen and I’m thankful for it,” Sanders said.
The outspoken Sanders played five seasons for the Falcons where he was a three-time Pro Bowl starter. His career began when he returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown in his first NFL game, against the Los Angeles Rams at Fulton County Stadium. He would sign as a free agent with San Francisco and won Super Bowls with the 49ers and Dallas. Sanders was an eight-time Pro Bowler and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. He also played professional baseball, including a stint in Atlanta with the Braves.
“Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz said it best,” Sanders said. “She said ‘There is no place like home.’ This is home. I never wanted to leave this and I think that goes documented. This is really the place that allowed me to be me – ignorant, brash, a rich adolescent. But they accepted me and allowed me to grow and mature. … It’s full circle coming back.
“I was mature then, but you guys wanted Prime Time. You didn’t want no Deion. That was the problem.”
Sanders established 12 team records with the Falcons. He scored 10 touchdowns on five returns, three interceptions and two receptions.
Sanders’ Hall of Fame bust was also at the Georgia Dome Sunday.
“I don’t know what the Hall of Fame dictates, whether it dictates that you are a great player,” Sanders said. “I don’t know that. I don’t think a committee or a board or a collection of people really can quantify that you are a great player. I felt that way anyway, without their vote, without the right, without the jacket. I’m happy. I’m elated. But I told you guys I was great before you caught on.”
Sanders was asked about the Falcons’ offensive struggles early this season.
“When the offensive line isn’t as effective as it could be that’s going to happen,”
he said. “Matt Ryan is getting his butt kicked. But I love this kid. He gets right back up, he doesn’t complain, he doesn’t point the finger. I love it man. He is a leader and he deserves that [captain’s] C on his chest. He’s going to have a long, bright and luxurious career.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog