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Steelers Bradshaw embraced in return to Steelers

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

For a player who stayed away 19 years, Terry Bradshaw certainly acted like he never wanted to leave.

Terry Bradshaw, left, talks with Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox before the start of last night's game at Heinz Field. (Matt Freed, Post-Gazette)

There he was, hugging everyone he saw at Heinz Field before the game -- Bill Cowher, former teammate Lynn Swann, fellow Louisiana quarterback Tommy Maddox. When he went out to midfield for the coin toss as an honorary co-captain, Bradshaw even hugged Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, whose father, Archie, competed against the Steelers in the 1970s.

The crowd at Heinz Field reciprocated with a high-decibel embrace of the man who was making his first appearance at a Steelers game since he retired in 1983.

"It took me a while to get comfortable to come back," Bradshaw said before he joined the Steelers captains -- Jerome Bettis, Jason Gildon, Lee Flowers and John Fiala -- for the coin toss. "I was booed off the field. I never forgot about that. I got hurt. It was hard to forget that.

"Then I woke up one morning ... and I made a point to mend all my fences to come home."

Bradshaw came home last night to a roar from the 62,800 fans who came to watch the Steelers defeat the Indianapolis Colts, 28-10, at Heinz Field. Bradshaw was accompanied by his two daughters, Rachel, 16, and Erin, 13, and his brother, Craig, a former quarterback who played briefly with the Houston Oilers in the 1970s.

As he ran off the field after the coin toss, Bradshaw waved to the crowd as the fans chanted, "Terry, Terry."

At halftime, Bradshaw was honored at midfield in a ceremony with Steelers President Dan Rooney and Vice President Art Rooney II. As he stood waving to the crowd, his daughters at his side, the crowd chanted his name again. When they replayed the Immaculate Reception during a video tribute to Bradshaw, the crowd cheered even louder and waved gold Terrible Towels.

The Rooneys then presented Bradshaw with a No. 12 jersey with a patch bearing the initials "AJR," standing for the late Steelers owner and founder, Arthur J. Rooney. Part of Bradshaw's discomfort about returning to Pittsburgh was the criticism he received for not attending the Chief's funeral in 1988.

When Bradshaw attempted to speak, the crowd chanted his name even louder.

"Believe me when I say this, I have missed you all very much," he said.

Then, he said, "It's good to be home."

During pregame warm-ups, Bradshaw sought out Maddox on the field and hugged him.

After the teams were introduced, Maddox came over to his fellow Shreveport native before he went on the field for the coin toss and joked with him some more.

"I had to grow up," Bradshaw said. "A lot's been said, a lot's been printed, and it's taken a while [to come back]."

Steelers fans are glad he did.

Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1466.

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