- Associated Press - Saturday, September 17, 2011

Michael Vick thrilled Georgia Dome fans for six seasons. Many of them felt betrayed by subsequent events that led to Vick doing jail time for his role in a dogfighting ring.

He returns as a starter to the dome Sunday with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the reception might not echo that recent history.

Vick remains immensely popular in Atlanta, despite what happened. The cheers outweighed the boos two years ago when he was a third-stringer for Philly, but still threw for one touchdown and ran for another in a 34-7 victory.

He’s anything but a third-stringer now.

“That’s something I haven’t thought about or really don’t want to get into,” said Vick, the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2010. “I still have a lot of love for the fans down there, but keep in mind I am with the opposition now. I don’t expect it to be in my favor due to the fact that I’m out there full-time, but we’ll see. That’s the fun part of the game and we’re just going to enjoy the day.”

Enjoying another day in Atlanta _ or anywhere _ seemed a long shot for Vick after being exiled from the Falcons, and then from the NFL. Now, he is a key performer on a team that went wild in free agency, made a huge trade that sent his backup and erstwhile competitor for the quarterbacking spot, Kevin Kolb, to Arizona. He’s also the owner of a $100 million contract.

“Going back as a starter is different than it was in 2009 when I spot-played a little bit and just had an opportunity to go out there and make a couple plays,” he said. “The emotional aspect of it I’m over, but it’ll be great to go back to the dome, play against a former team, have an opportunity to play against some guys that I played with. It’s going to be different going back as the starter, but at the same time, it’ll be fun.”

It’s also a huge game between two of the favorites in the NFC, particularly after the Falcons were beaten handily in Chicago last week. Philly won at St. Louis.

Elsewhere Sunday, it’s Seattle at Pittsburgh, San Diego at New England, Green Bay at Carolina, Chicago at New Orleans, Baltimore at Tennessee, Kansas City at Detroit, Jacksonville at the New York Jets, Oakland at Buffalo, Tampa Bay at Minnesota, Cleveland at Indianapolis, Dallas at San Francisco, Arizona at Washington, Houston at Miami, and Cincinnati at Denver.

On Monday night, St. Louis is at the New York Giants.

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Seattle (0-1) at Pittsburgh (1-0)

Once in a while, the Steelers’ offense doesn’t show up. No big deal because the defense rescues Pittsburgh.

That makes the stunning 35-7 failure at Baltimore last weekend so distressing in Steel City. Not only was the offense committing seven turnovers, looking like amateurs and losing right tackle Willie Colon (torn right triceps) for the season, but the defense was being run over.

“It’s like (defensive coordinator Dick) LeBeau said, we used our mulligan on the first hole and we’ve got 17 more holes to birdie,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

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