PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Allen Iverson left Philadelphia 15 months ago bitter because of a nasty separation with the team that made him the No. 1 overall draft pick and a worldwide superstar.
He disliked coach Maurice Cheeks and pouted when the 76ers would not listen to his input about changes in the organization. The franchise player and the franchise had enough of each other and there was no turning back.
``It was a tough time for me and my family to go through everything we went through,'' Iverson said.
On Wednesday night when he returned to the city he adored for the first time as a Denver Nugget, all was forgotten.
The sellout crowd, with signs of love and support, roared before they even heard Iverson's name and they only got louder when he cupped his hand to his ear wanting more.
``Leaving here, I felt like I was going to leave for good,'' Iverson said. ``After that ovation and seeing the way people still care about me as a person, there's no way I can leave this place alone. We've got a lot of change of plans. I might not be selling that house now.''
Iverson chuckled at that one, and seemed at ease back in Philly. When he played against the Sixers the first two times in Denver, Iverson called them just another team. He also made no attempts to make peace with Cheeks, the coach he once openly lobbied the front office to hire.
The two hadn't spoken since the trade. After all, Cheeks was the one who banished Iverson from a game against Washington last year shortly before the deal and the one who was embarrassed in the 2006 season finale when A.I failed to show on fan appreciation night.
Returning to his adopted home brought out the best in Iverson. He hugged security guards, searched out old fans, and seemed more like a wide-eyed rookie than a 12-year veteran. With all eyes on him, Iverson jogged down to the Sixers' bench and hugged Cheeks.
``I knew that I was going to go down there and let him know it was time for myself, this franchise and my teammates that I played with to move on,'' Iverson said. ``Move on with life. That chapter is over, but that don't mean the book has to have a bad ending. It don't have to be like that.''
The Philly diehards gave Iverson an ovation so loud that his name couldn't be heard during introductions. He tried to give them all one more show and even had the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
But Iverson and the Nuggets came up short. He scored 32 points and watched the Sixers ruin his return with a 115-113 victory.
``The adulation he received was very much deserved,'' Cheeks said. ``I got to watching him and got a little touched by it and I realized I had to go coach the game.''
Cheeks believes Iverson, who fought with coaches, skipped practices, and admittedly could be a selfish ballhog, has finally matured like the Sixers always hoped he would. About the only time anyone ever hears about Iverson these days, it's for his scoring and what he's doing with the Nuggets and not a run-in with the law or reports of scuffles in Atlantic City, N.J.
``You can see a lot of maturity as a person and a player,'' Cheeks said. ``I think as we all get older, we mature at a lot of things that we do. I think Allen has matured as a person and certainly as a player.''
Iverson was contrite about the mistakes he made in Philadelphia, sorry that he never controlled his emotions or took total responsibility for the blow ups that led to the hard times.
``I was 21 years old from the projects. I never had nothing,'' he said. ``I didn't know what it was like to have a $100, better yet a million. I had my ups and downs, I made bad mistakes and I felt like I paid for those mistakes and I learned from them.''
Even as sincere as Iverson sounded, the Sixers heard all the rhetoric before. He always talked about wanting to become a leader, how he honestly felt like he could win a championship, and would score one point (``I'd take an O-fer ... Winfrey'') if it meant the team would win.
Very rarely did Iverson back up his words. In Denver, coach George Karl expects Iverson to lead a team fighting for a playoff spot and he believes that ``The Answer'' has found his way.
Iverson's explanation is simple: At 32, he's too old for the spectacle.
``I've got four kids and one on the way. I'm the coach in that house,'' he said. ``If I'm not setting a good example, then I'm failing as a father. That's the last thing I'd want to do is fail my kids.''

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