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T.O. does it his way

The Associated Press

Former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens waits to deliver his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech on Saturday.

The Associated PressCHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Terrell Owens came in wearing a suit spotted with the Pro Football Hall of Fame logo and swapped that out for the prized gold jacket.

His bust? That remained 600 miles away in Canton, Ohio, along with the seven other members of this year’s Hall of Fame class, leaving the stage at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga all alone to Owens.

And yes, the man known as T.O. later brought out a big bucket of popcorn.

Owens entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in a celebration uniquely his own Saturday afternoon at his alma mater before approximately 3,000 fans who frequently cheered, chanted “T.O.” and gave him the occasional standing ovation. Owens also made clear why he chose to enter the Hall of Fame with a ceremony in Chattanooga instead of with Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and former Eagles teammate Brian Dawkins in Ohio.

“A lot of people say that I may regret not being in Canton 10, 15, 20 years from now,” Owens said. “But just like my choice to be here today, I choose not to live in regret. I will leave a legacy that will leave an imprint on this world forever.”

Owens used part of a speech lasting about 39 minutes to explain why he was in Chattanooga instead of Canton, addressing the “elephant in the room.”

“It’s not because of how many times it took for me to be voted to the hall,” said Owens, who got in on his third try — the same as Joe Namath, for example. “It’s about the mere fact that the sports writers are not in alignment with the mission and core values of the Hall of Fame.

“These writers disregarded the system, the criteria and bylaws in which guys are inducted, and ultimately the true meaning of the Hall of Fame and what it represents. I wanted to take a stand so the next guy coming after me will not have to go through what I and others have gone through. Whether it’s three years or 45 years, you should get what you rightfully earned.”

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