MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -Former home run king Hank Aaron grew up in segregated Mobile and learned to play baseball in a pecan grove - too poor to own a bat.
On Monday he received a hero's welcome at the state Capitol as he was sworn into the Alabama Academy of Honor, joining prominent politicians, industrialists and luminaries from the state such as novelist Harper Lee and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
He compared the tribute from his home state to his greatest honors, including winning the NL MVP, a World Series title and induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
``I was thrilled beyond words,'' Aaron said.
Aaron held the major league record for career home runs with 755 until last month when San Francisco's Barry Bonds passed that mark.
The academy recognizes living Alabamians for accomplishments ``reflecting great credit on the state.''
Aaron received several standing ovations from the more than 200 people who crowded into the old House chamber for the ceremony.
``It's good to be back in Alabama where I learned to play the game and that's been such a big part of my life,'' said Aaron, 73, an Atlanta businessman and executive with the Atlanta Braves.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley hugged Aaron after he was inducted into the hall and later gave him a state lapel pin, saying the state doesn't have a better representative.
Despite Alabama's segregated past, Aaron said he was never ashamed of the state.
``I was always proud to be from Alabama,'' Aaron said.
After the news conference, Aaron hung around for about 15 minutes - signing baseballs and bats and posing for pictures with Capitol workers and state officials.
Aaron said to him his most memorable home run wasn't No. 715, which broke Babe Ruth's record in 1974.
It the one he hit off St. Louis' Billy Muffett to clinch the 1957 pennant for the Milwaukee Braves, who went on to win the World Series that year.

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