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In Philadelphia, a Michael Vick Atlanta never knew

Quarterback Michael Vick has won the starting job with the Philadelphia Eagles by changing who he is – both on and off the field – after spending 20 months in prison for dogfighting.

By Staff writer / September 22, 2010

Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks Michael Vick (7) and Kevin Kolb practice at the team's training facility in Philadelphia Wednesday.

Matt Rourke/AP

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Atlanta

This is not the Michael Vick that fans here in Atlanta knew before he was convicted on dogfighting charges and spent 20 months in a federal pen.

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Here, Mike Vick flipped off a jeering fan.

In Philadelphia on Tuesday, when Philadelphia Eagles Coach Andy Reid announced that Vick was the Eagles new starter, Vick said: "I'm humbled."

Here, Mike Vick, a former No. 1 pick with a $130 million deal, dazzled fans with his footwork, but frustrated them with his tendency to pull the ball down and run at the first sign of danger.

In his game last Sunday against Detroit, the second-string Vick – playing only because the starter was injured – stayed poised even as he scrambled, relying on his arm and football mind as much as his athletic legs.

Here, Mike Vick didn't give a hoot what people thought of him.

In Philadelphia, Vick is all about how people perceive him, even taking part in a BET documentary that details the truth about his former "double life" as a kennel owner where failing fighting dogs would meet their demise through drowning and electrocution.

A three-year project

The narrative of redemption is a nearly three-year project that began while he was in prison. It involved his Christian mentor, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, the support he received from former teammate Donovan McNabb, and the faith of the Eagles organization, where even the most "Sunny in Philadelphia" optimist would have been hard-pressed to forecast this day.

Meanwhile, Vick has turned some of his most ardent critics to his side, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for which he now volunteers as a spokesman. (Most of the dogs taken from his Bad Newz Kennels are now thriving in new homes.)

As recently as June, Vick was described by Forbes as one of the 10 most disliked people in sports. But in Philadelphia, at least, "he's gone from pariah to savior," says ESPN's Sal Paolantonio

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