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Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly listed among Philadelphia's historical setbacks a move of the U.S. Mint from that city to New York. No such move occurred. Philadelphia was home to the original mint, and although the agency's headquarters was moved to the District in the 1800s, Philadelphia remains among the locations where U.S. coins are produced. New York has never been among those cities.

Redskins' Donovan McNabb returns to Philadelphia after 11 years as an Eagle

Washington makes a deal to acquire quarterback Donovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 3, 2010; 12:37 AM

What might have happened had the Philadelphia Eagles selected Ricky Williams, a running back from Texas, with the second pick of the 1999 NFL draft? Cheers would have filled Madison Square Garden, where the draft was held, and Donovan McNabb would have fallen to the Cincinnati Bengals or the Indianapolis Colts or the New Orleans Saints or some other team in some other city, with a chance to write a different script. There would have been no history for McNabb with Philadelphia, with the Eagles, with their fans.

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"We thought Ricky Williams was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime player," said Ed Rendell, former Philadelphia mayor, current Pennsylvania governor, ardent Eagles fan and Williams supporter on Draft Day '99.

But as soon as then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said: "With the second pick, the Philadelphia Eagles select Donovan McNabb, quarterback, Syracuse University," the seeds of a complicated, turbulent, sometimes inexplicable relationship were sown. The Eagles fans who bused to the draft booed, and booed hard.

Welcome to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, Donovan. We wish you were someone else.

"Not that he had a chip on his shoulder, but he really felt slighted," said Michael Karloutsos, a Philadelphia restaurant owner, Eagles season-ticket holder and friend of the McNabb family. "He felt like they took away that moment from him, and he deserved that moment. Think about that. So now, that sour taste is in his mouth."

McNabb himself would never say he was or is or ever will be sour about Philadelphia. Eleven years later, when the bookend to McNabb's career in Philadelphia came in the form of a trade to the Washington Redskins, McNabb spoke only highly of his time in Philadelphia.

"It's been 11 great years," he said last week.

The addendum to that career and those emotions comes Sunday, when McNabb appears on the Eagles' field for the first time in an opposing uniform. For one moment, the complexity of the relationship between city and athlete will be distilled to its simplest form. He will be booed, or he will be cheered. Or both.

"He's going to get a big ovation," said Angelo Cataldi, the outspoken drive-time host on all-sports radio station WIP, the man who organized the trip to boo McNabb's selection at the draft. "It hurts me to say it."

"It's going to be some mixed reactions," said Redskins lineman Artis Hicks, who spent the first three years of his career blocking for McNabb in Philadelphia. "You got a lot of diehard fans there that it's all about who we got now."

"There's going to be an opinion," said Eagles Coach Andy Reid, the man behind both McNabb's selection and his departure.

The Phillies will appear in baseball's playoffs in the coming days. The Flyers, who reached the Stanley Cup finals last spring, open their season this week. Yet in Philadelphia last week, the talk centered on the Eagles and McNabb, McNabb and the Eagles. His pending return has caused what amounts to a wave of civic introspection.


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