Continued from page 1

“There are a lot of 90 jerseys still around Charlotte, so I think he’ll be welcomed,” said Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross, who will line up opposite Peppers for real after seven years of intense practice competitions.

“He’s not a Panther anymore, and it didn’t go down the way everybody would have liked it to I don’t think, but he meant so much to this team for so long that I’d be surprised if people didn’t welcome him.”

While Peppers looks to rebound after being held without a sack by the Giants, Cutler’s streak of 57 straight starts will be snapped. Collins will try to jump-start a Chicago offense that managed just 110 yards and allowed a franchise-worst 10 sacks last week.

“I’ve been around for a while,” said Collins, who turns 39 next month.

Chicago may not need a lot of offense against the Panthers, who are averaging a league-low 11 1/2 points a game in their worst start since 1998. Things bottomed out three years later when Carolina went 1-15 and coach John Fox replaced George Seifert.

Fox made Peppers, the Bailey native and North Carolina star, his first draft pick and rode him to the Super Bowl in the 2003 season.

Now Peppers is gone and Fox is coaching a winless team in the last year of his contract. Both guys could end up being booed Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in what Peppers acknowledges will be an “emotional” experience.

“I really don’t know what to expect or what I’m going to be feeling once I get to that stadium,” he said. “I’m sure it’s going to feel funny running out there and being on the opposing sideline _ but I think that will last for about 10 minutes.”