Former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will be among a group of former players to attend the team’s regular-season finale for the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
The Falcons (10-5) are set to play the Saints (7-8) at 4:25 p.m. and the team has invited several players to take part in a pre-game ceremony.
The stadium is scheduled to be demolished to make way for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Vick will be there with former players at 3:20 p.m. coming out of tunnel just across from Falcons tunnel.
Also, Keion Carpenter’s family members will guests of Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank. Carpenter, 39, died last week. He played six seasons in the NFL and with the Falcons.
Vick’s slated appearance has caused some controversy. A group has started an online petition asking the team to withdraw the invite.
Vick, who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2001 draft, electrified the fan base, energized the team and sold out the Georgia Dome.
Vick fell out of favor with the franchise after he pleaded guilty in a federal dogfighting investigation in August 2007. He was suspended from the NFL for a violation of the league’s personal-conduct policy.
He served 21 months in prison and two months in home confinement.
Vick was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons and helped guide them to the NFC Championship game after the 2004 regular season. Before falling out of grace, he also guided the Falcons to a historic playoff victory on the road over the Green Bay Packers after the 2002 season.
“One thing about Atlanta, we created a connection with the fans,” Vick said to Marc James on the Jim Rome show on CBS Sports Radio on Dec. 12. “I credit Arthur Blank because in 2002 he did something very remarkable with the fans. He lowered the prices and got everybody into the Dome. He filled up the seats and everybody was able to come and watch that team put on a playoff run. I was able to do some remarkable things and bring some hope to the city.”
“I just embraced the city. I love Atlanta and Atlanta will always be my second home. That’s a place where I would want to retire with that team. …it’s a place where you see those number seven jerseys for a reason, the connection was there and I can say that.”
Vick, after serving his prison sentence, went to play for Philadelphia, the New York Jets and Pittsburgh. But he reiterated that he wanted to retire with the Falcons.
“That would be great,” Vick said. “That would be awesome. I think that would close out my story and connection with that franchise for what I was able to accomplish in six years. Not by myself, but the entire organization.
“With the city, the respect and the love was all there. It was genuine. When I think about my career and what I’m identified with, it is the Atlanta Falcons. …maybe there are some conversations that need to be had. I look forward to it because that’s what’s dear in my heart. I’m just being honest and candid.”
Vick talked with Blank before the season and a few months ago. He plans to speak with him again after the season.
He discussed the conversation he had with Blank right before he went to prison.
“I just talked about and opened up about every thing that had transpired over the course of five months,” Vick said. “The trust that I had and the distrust that I used throughout the process and abused, more to kind of talk man-to-man and get on the same page about how we felt and the respect that we had for one another.
“We were going to be moving forward. We couldn’t go backwards. Mr. Blank always gave me the utmost respect. He always told me as a young man, because I was a kid when you think back, take advantage of what (he was) trying to offer (me) as far as knowledge, the way you’re supposed to live and the way you need to grow. “
It’s been 10 years since the investigation that rocked the franchise.
After serving time, Vick, with the help of former NFL coach Tony Dungy and others, has rehabilitated himself and went on to play for Philadelphia (2009-13), the New York Jets (2014) and Pittsburgh (2015). He’s been out of football this season.
Curtis Compton contributed to this report.