METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Defensive end Charles Grant said he could envision naming a son after Deuce McAllister.
Fullback Mike Karney called McAllister ``the people's champ.''
At Saints headquarters this week, it was clear that fans in the Louisiana Superdome, who howled ``Deeuuce!'' every time McAllister ran the ball, weren't the only ones energized by the performance of the Saints' all-time rushing leader last Sunday.
``I play for guys like Deuce,'' said Karney, who watched last weekend's game from the sideline with a sore ankle, but hopes to return Monday night against Minnesota. ``I was chanting his name. He gets introduced and the crowd just goes crazy.''
McAllister rushed 20 times for 73 yards and a touchdown, and also had a 10-yard, third-down reception to sustain a scoring drive during New Orleans' 31-17 victory over San Francisco. It was his first real work since coming back from his second major knee operation in the previous three seasons.
71 starts, said the runs that pleased him most were ``the ugliest ones, where you have a guy in the backfield and you have to do something that normally you wouldn't have to do.''
``It's the ones that you gain 3 or 4 yards, but it should have been a tackle for a loss.''
It is that same workhorse approach that may have saved the 29-year-old's football career from a premature end.
McAllister tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in 2005 and his left ACL in Week 3 of last season. He also had microfracture surgery on his right knee last year, a procedure in which holes are drilled into bone in order to regenerate soft tissue that mimics the padding effect of cartilage in the joint.
Having rushed for 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns after his first knee reconstruction, McAllister expressed confidence he could come back strong from his second.
The Saints were hopeful, but not necessarily convinced. To appease the franchise, McAllister agreed to change his contract so he'd be paid less if he was unable to play regularly.
of two consecutive Pro Bowl seasons.
Fans were getting impatient, flooding call-in shows with complaints. Payton said he understood why fans would be emotional about McAllister, whose popularity extends beyond football. A native of nearby Mississippi and a former Ole Miss star, he has long endeared himself to the region's residents with his charitable causes, his leadership in the business community and his easygoing, approachable manner off the field.
Payton also sought to assure fans that he, too, was a big fan of McAllister and eventually would work the running back into the game plan.
Last Sunday, when it came time to introduce the starting lineups, Payton made sure the Saints' offense was announced, and that McAllister was the last one to emerge from the tunnel.
The crowd loved it.
``It was pretty much flattering, just the fans' response,'' McAllister said. ``But my immediate concern and focus was just trying to win a ballgame, so not getting overly excited and not doing anything out of the ordinary.''
On his first carry, McAllister said he was too eager and didn't allow his blocks to set up properly. He plunged into the pile for what looked like a minimal gain, but ended up moving the pile for a gain of 5.
Later, McAllister scored his first touchdown by diving over the pile, then drilled a no-frills spike off the turf.
ause I hadn't been there in so long,'' McAllister said.
It was his first touchdown since a playoff victory over Philadelphia on Jan. 13, 2007.
``The touchdown was great and everything, him getting over the pile like Walter Payton,'' Karney said. ``But that play where he had a 2-yard gain and turned it into like a 6-yard gain, that rugby scrum - that's when I was like, 'Oh, he's back. He's ready to go.' Because that's impressive. I mean, two knee injuries and he's carrying a pile like that.''

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