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 ROME, Ga. (AP) -Julio Franco arrived Thursday at the latest stop on his baseball odyssey - the Class A Rome Braves. With a smile on his face, he said he planned to ``enjoy this to the max.''
A quarter century after his first game in the major leagues, the 48-year-old Franco was in Rome to play first base in a South Atlantic League game with the Greenville Drive.
``My goal while I'm here is to get some at-bats and contribute to the team any way I can,'' said Franco, who was designated for assignment by the Atlanta Braves two weeks ago. After clearing waivers, he agreed to a minor league assignment.
The former American League batting champ, who turns 49 next week, said he would stay with Rome for the next four days, and might join next week's road trip in Savannah.
Franco's career has included eight major league teams as well as stints in Mexico, Japan and Korea. He likely will rejoin Atlanta on Sept. 1 when the major league rosters are expanded.
``It's an honor to have him here,'' Rome pitcher Cole Rohrbough said. ``We can learn a lot just from watching him, and I'm going to try to do that as much as possible.''
Next to Franco, the oldest Rome player is Jorge Acosta, who turns 24 next month.
Franco made his major league debut in 1982 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He helped Atlanta win division titles from 2001-05, and signed a two-year deal with the Mets prior to the '06 season. He was released last month, the re-signed with the Braves and spent roughly two weeks with the team before being designated for assignment when Atlanta acquired Mark Teixeria.

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