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Sympathy for T.O. in Philly and around NFL

Terrell Owens got sympathy from an unlikely place: Philadelphia. Former teammates and fans in a city that lashed out against the star receiver after the Eagles kicked him off the team last year expressed their concern for Owens.

PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 27, 2006) -- Terrell Owens got sympathy from an unlikely place: Philadelphia.

Former teammates and fans in a city that lashed out against the star receiver after the Eagles kicked him off the team last year expressed their concern for Owens.

"We may hate the guy for what he did to our team, but I don't want to see him dead," said Mike Paluso, a season ticketholder who has a curse word taped over Owens' name on his No. 81 jersey. "I'd rather see (Eagles safety) Brian Dawkins lay him out with a hard hit across the middle."

Owens, hospitalized late on Sept. 26, denied a police report that he attempted suicide, saying he became groggy after mixing painkillers with supplements.

Released from the hospital late Wednesday morning, two hours later Owens was catching passes from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe and looking ahead to Week 4's game, despite a broken right hand.

The NFL struggled to keep up with the ever-changing series of events.

"I don't know what's truth and what's fiction. I just hope he's OK," said Falcons coach Jim Mora, the defensive coordinator in San Francisco when Owens played for the 49ers. "Whatever is going on, we all hope the best for him and hope this is much ado about nothing. He's a good person. I know sometimes people say (different), but he's got a good heart and a good soul. I hope he's OK."

Many players quickly disputed the report of a possible suicide attempt.

"It's probably best not to say anything because nobody knows what's going on. My phone hasn't rang at all," said Carolina's Keyshawn Johnson as he pulled his phone from his pocket and showed it to reporters. "That just goes to tell me there really isn't much to it, because my phone hasn't rang."

Bengals receiver Chad Johnson agreed.

"As soon as I got the news this morning, I had to make my call to make sure everything was OK," said Johnson, who added he talks to Owens nearly every day. "You know what it was? He took the pain medication for his hand. But he took it on an empty stomach. You know what happens if any of you have ever tried to take pain medication on an empty stomach, your stomach is going to suffer. So he went to the hospital."

Vikings receiver Billy McMullen, who played 1½ seasons with Owens in Philadelphia, also didn't believe reports of a suicide attempt.

"Too proud of a guy to do that," McMullen said. "Too much going on. Too much faith in him. Too much God in him to do that."

Owens came to the Eagles in 2004 after eight often controversial seasons in San Francisco. He caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns, helped the Eagles to a 13-1 start and made a valiant return from ankle surgery to play in Philadelphia's loss to New England in the Super Bowl.

From there, it was downhill.

Owens' problems in Philly started when he demanded a new contract just one year into a seven-year, $48.97 million deal. He criticized management, feuded with quarterback Donovan McNabb, violated team policies and eventually was banished seven games into the season.

An arbitrator upheld the Eagles' decision to suspend Owens without pay for four games and deactivate him the final five games. He was released in March and signed a three-year, $25 million deal with Dallas a few days later.

The Eagles had a rare day off Sept. 27 because they're hosting the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. The team had no official comment on Owens.

"My heart goes out to him and his family," said former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas, who was involved in the locker-room altercation with Owens that precipitated his dismissal from Philadelphia last November.

With Owens already back on the practice field, fans are eagerly awaiting Owens' return to Philadelphia on Oct. 8.

They and Owens' fellow NFL players will keep watch for the latest news.

"I know in the beginning, T.O. wanted attention from the media. I think now, the media is giving him a little too much attention," said Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson who played with Owens in San Francisco from 2000-'03. "I think that's really breaking him down a little bit. I mean, everyday. If he's eating soup, he's eating soup the wrong way. He's not eating it clean. It's always something.

"The biggest thing is, everyone's just on him. Sometimes he's got to shut his mouth, too. It's not all the media's fault, either. But in times like this, right now, I think it's best for them to back off him and let him perform, because that's what he really wants to do."

Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said he planned to call Owens in a few days.

"I just wish him the best," Sapp said. "We all go through tough times. It's something that you never want to see with a player in this league or anybody in general you know or have any concern about."

AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Eden Prairie, Minn., Josh Dubow in Alameda, Calif. and Gregg Bell in Kirkland, Wash. contributed to this report.

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