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 NEW YORK (AP) -Eric Mangini had a surprise sit-down with Tony Soprano.
The New York Jets coach made a cameo on HBO's ``The Sopranos'' on Sunday night - and was lucky to not get caught up in all the bloodshed on the violent mob drama.
``I think `star' would be a little bit too strong a word,'' Mangini said Monday with a chuckle. ``It was just nice to be a part of a show that I've followed for so long. I've liked the show since it started and to have the opportunity to be part of it, especially here at the end, it was just a great opportunity.''
The scene took place at the fictional restaurant Nuovo Vesuvio, owned by Soprano's childhood friend, Artie Bucco. Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, is having dinner with his wife, Carmella (Edie Falco), when Bucco (John Ventimiglia) and his wife approach the couple to catch up on family matters.
``Tone, you know who's in tonight?'' Bucco then asks Soprano. ``Mangenius.''
The camera pans to a table where Mangini, looking dapper in a suit instead of his usual black Jets warmup top and shorts, and his wife, Julie, are enjoying dinner.
``They had food out there, but we didn't eat the food,'' Mangini said. ``We just pretended we were.''
Soprano turns to his puzzled wife and says: ``It's the Jets coach, sweetie. I should go say hello.''
Soprano and Bucco walk over to the table and are seen in the back of the restaurant talking with Mangini.
``It took me a long time to get into character,'' said Mangini, who watched the episode Sunday night. ``Playing me eating dinner is a real stretch, but I worked with an acting coach and I think I really nailed it.''
The Jets coach did not speak in the brief appearance on the hit show that will air its series finale next Sunday. The show's casting group e-mailed the Jets a few months ago to see if Mangini would be interested in appearing on the show.
``I was traveling at the time, and I thought it was somebody playing a joke, but I researched it and they were doing the shoot two days later,'' said Mangini, who told just a few friends about the appearance before it aired. ``I called Julie up and we decided to do it.''
Despite Sunday night's particularly violent episode, Mangini wasn't afraid of getting whacked.
``I knew the context of what we were doing prior to getting into it and felt very comfortable with being at the restaurant,'' he said with a laugh. ``It's not like Tony and I had any previous affiliation or subsequent affiliation. It was more or less just meeting another person at a restaurant who happened to be a fan of the Jets.''
Mangini said Gandolfini and the rest of the cast made him and his wife feel comfortable on the set, but he has no plans to move from the gridiron to the small screen on a regular basis.
``I've always respected TV and the creative part of both TV and film and it's amazing what they're able to do in both of those areas,'' he said. ``But I'm very happy doing what I'm doing.''
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