FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -Michael Irvin returned to where his Hall of Fame career began Tuesday night, and he embraced the homecoming in typically emotional fashion.
``This is where it all started and I wanted to be here to celebrate this and enjoy it,'' said Irvin, the former University of Miami and Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver who was feted before about 200 guests at a dinner in his hometown. ``I wanted to come back to Miami as soon as I got off the podium. I wanted the energy to still be alive. This is home.''
It has been a whirlwind few days for Irvin, the outspoken and charismatic wide receiver who was part of a six-man class enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night in Canton, Ohio.
``Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, that is such an honor,'' Irvin said. ``It's a blow-you-away honor. No, it's not normal, but I love hearing it. I don't know if I'll ever get used to it.''
Flanked by some relatives and other close friends at a $150-a-plate event that benefited the Michael Irvin Playmaker Charities and Foundation, Irvin posed for photos and exchanged handshakes with a steady stream of well-wishers, some of whom he's known for years, some he was meeting for the first time.
Nearby, Irvin's mother and aunt watched with wide smiles from their table.
``All this is wonderful,'' said Irvin's mother, Stella, who got out of the car carrying her to the event holding a shopping bag from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. ``Go, go, go, but it's been wonderful.''
Irvin's induction speech, which he never rehearsed, capped a memorable induction ceremony. He thanked everyone from his high school coach at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, George Smith - who was at the event Tuesday - to people at Miami and many within the Cowboys organization, all in his distinctive, simple-yet-eloquent style.
He offered many of the same sentiments at his homecoming.
``People root for the underdog,'' said Irvin, who has publicly battled addiction issues throughout his adult life. ``So don't tell me this isn't a great world and great country that we're in. People root hard for the underdog. We have struggles, I have struggles, and to see someone overcome it gives the rest of us some hope.''
Irvin, who was let go from his analyst job at ESPN in February, said he plans to continue talking about football as a career - but at the same time, is looking forward to having more free time.
``Now I have a chance to watch my sons play, and then watch my boys play here in Miami,'' Irvin said. ``And I'm really going to enjoy that.''

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