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 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -David Thornton knows how to celebrate a birthday.
The Tennessee Titans linebacker turned 29 Thursday, but the real party starts Saturday when the bus Thornton chartered for at least 60 relatives arrives in Nashville from North Carolina.
``It's all family. Family on my mother's side, my father's side. They're coming up,'' Thornton said. ``A lot of them, it'll be their first time coming to an NFL game. For years, they've been supporting me. This will be their first chance to come together and see me play. I'm looking forward to playing in front of them, and they're really pumped up to come to Nashville.''
This isn't the first time Thornton has chartered transportation to bring people to watch him play. The six-year veteran said he had brought school teachers, local residents and some family and friends to games when he played in Indianapolis.
But the timing for this trip couldn't be better for Thornton.
Thornton was the drum major of his high school marching band in Goldsboro, N.C., and president of his school's National Honor Society. He walked on at North Carolina and became the Tar Heels' MVP as a senior.
Indianapolis drafted him in the fourth round in 2002, and he became a starter in his second season. The Titans lured him away last year as a free agent, and he has been a big piece of their defense ever since.
He currently leads the Titans with 63 total tackles. He also has four for losses with one interception and one forced fumble.
``It's an exciting time for him to have the family in town and watch the ballgame. He's off to a great start this year. He's been very productive,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
And oh yeah, the best part about this trip? The Titans' opponent. Tennessee (5-2) is hosting the Carolina Panthers (4-3).
``No question about it, it's definitely special to me,'' Thornton said.
He's been busy scrounging up tickets, and he needed 63 at last count. With the Titans approaching their 89th consecutive sellout, Thornton's family will be scattered throughout LP Field.
When teammate Albert Haynesworth made his pro debut in 2002, he estimates he had 25 family and friends in the stands. But he couldn't touch Thornton's crowd.
``Never 60,'' Haynesworth said.
Linebacker Ryan Fowler once had 45 relatives watch him in college when Duke visited Florida State, and that was an easy trip for family of the Tampa, Fla., native. As a professional, he said he's only paid for his parents to come and watch him play in person.
``David's a good guy. He's got a lot of people that care about him. I don't think I have that many people that I know that would want to come see me,'' Fowler said.
To Thornton, these are the people who have been supporting him throughout his career, making the move easy.
``I'm very blessed to have them praying for me and cheering for me in my corner,'' he said. ``Hopefully, it'll be something they can carry and remember for the rest of their lives.''
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