HAMPTON, Va. (AP) - Suspended NFL player Michael Vick has arrived at his Virginia home a day after being released from a federal prison 1,200 miles away in Kansas.
A car with blackout curtains pulled into the garage of Vick's brick home at the end of a cul-de-sac at about 8:25 a.m with a crowd watching. The cul-de-sac in front of the five-bedroom home drew a steady stream of curious onlookers as news spread that he was heading back to town.
Some conveniently jogged by, others biked and many simply drove
in hoping to get a peek.
A couple of college-age men climbed out onto a first-story roof across the street from Vick's home and sat down to absorb the scene, then tossed a football in the yard Wednesday.
And of course, there was no shortage of media, satellite TV trucks and photographers.
Asked if Vick was in the car, Chris Garrett, a member of Vick's support and legal team, said yes.
Vick spent 19 months in prison after his federal dogfighting conviction and is returning to Virginia to spend the last two months of his sentence under home confinement. He will work a $10-an-hour construction job and wear an electronic monitor that restricts his movement.
He has until the end of the week to meet with his parole officer, but even that meeting could take place at the brick home with the in-ground pool, fenced yard and pond out back. The officer has to make the trip anyway, it seems, to make sure to monitor is working properly.
While there were no signs welcoming the fallen star back to the home he will share with his fiancee and children, neighbors seemed relieved that the gathering wasn't larger.
Doug Walter, who lives two doors away, said he was pleasantly surprised when he got home from work to find only media on the street, and not the "radical element" he feared.
A criminal defense attorney and self-described dog lover, Walter said he cringed at some of the details of violence against animals that came out in the case, but also believes that Vick deserves a second chance at football and hopes that he wins reinstatement to the NFL.
"I think that he has paid the penalty - a rather steep penalty - which our system deemed appropriate, and I think he should be allowed to move on with his life," Walter said.
That's just the kind of neighbor that Vick will need as he works first to convince the public, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and others that he returns a different man than the one who became known for bankrolling a dogfighting ring and killing dogs.
And after spending time with his family and loved ones, changing that image will be foremost on Vick's mind even before he can consider seeking that reinstatement.
And the wheels to make that change are already in motion.
The Humane Society of the United States said Vick met with its president recently in prison and wants to work on a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens.
Billy Martin, one of Vick's criminal attorneys, said Vick chose to work with the animal protection group because it was one of his harshest critics before he was indicted.
"Now it's time for Mike's deeds to speak for themselves," Martin said.
"Football is on the back burner for now," said agent Joel Segal, who negotiated Vick's 10-year, $130 million contract with the Falcons - then the richest in the league - but will be asking for substantially less if his client's suspension is ultimately lifted by Goodell.
Many in the league, including Falcons owner Arthur Blank, said Vick deserves a chance to rebuild his life through football, having been left bankrupt and shamed by his conviction.
"It goes beyond, 'Has he paid his debt to society?' Because I think that from a legal standpoint and financially and personally, he has," Blank said at an NFL owners' meeting.
Part of Vick's problem was the company he kept, Blank said, and weeding out the bad influences will be critical.
Vick was accompanied on the 1,200-mile ride by fiancee Kijafa Frink, a videographer and several members of a security team assembled by his lawyers and advisers, a person familiar with the plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment on the matter. The reason for the videographer was unclear.
It was the beginning of what Vick's team of supporters hope is a new start.
Vick is scheduled to be released from federal custody on July 20, and then faces three more years of supervised probation.
Associated Press Writers Larry O'Dell in Hampton, John Marshall
in Leavenworth, Kan., and George Henry in Flowery Branch, Ga., and
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed
to this report.
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