Doug Williams had a homecoming on "The Hill" yesterday, an emotional session before a packed gymnasium at Howard University where he claimed all historically black colleges as his own and praised them for providing the kind of sustenance that made him the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player.

For Williams, who has been relatively quiet since returning from San Diego and Super Bowl XXII, it was a chance for a nearly 40-minute highly personal talk laced with black pride, praise for the city, its fans and his teammates, and insights into how it felt to make it into the Big Game.

The crowd of about 2,500 students, faculty and guests gathered in Burr Gymnasium greeted Williams with a standing ovation. People reached over the balcony railings of the gym trying to touch his head. Flashbulbs erupted into something of an indoor fireworks display. Shouts of "Doug, Doug, Doug," reverberated throughout the gym.

"This is a long way from Zachary," Williams said with a smile, referring to his home town in Louisiana.

At one point, Williams took exception at being dubbed an "honorary Bison" -- the mascot for the school's teams -- by William Moultrie, Howard's athletic director.

"You don't have to make me a member of Howard," Williams said. "I am already a member. I did not have to play here. I am a part of Howard, South Carolina State, Alcorn {Alcorn State in Mississippi} and Texas Southern. I am a product of all black universities and colleges."

During his appearance at Howard, which is called "The Hill," because it sits on the heights overlooking downtown, Williams spoke of his hardships in getting to the Super Bowl, fighting back the pain after his knee was injured and his concern over the way the media covered the "first black quarterback" to start a Super Bowl game. He said he was pleased that, in spite of the pressures, Washington fans have always treated him as "a son," much as his former college coach, the legendary Eddie Robinson of Grambling State University in Grambling, La., did.

"I sure wish Eddie Robinson was here," Williams said. "I saw him at the Super Bowl and if anybody had more fun than I did, it was him."

Robinson has coached more victories than any college coach in history and his teams have contributed more than their share of players to professional football.

The "Doug Day" ceremonies was organized by radio station WOL, which station owner Cathy Hughes said collected more than 58,000 "messages of support" on a scroll the length of 21 city blocks after Williams was sidelined with a back injury.

When Hughes referred to Williams as "Doug E. Fresh," the name of a popular rap singer, Williams smiled at the ecstatic audience and began pointing and shooting thumbs up at faces he recognized in the crowd. When a representative of the social group "Women of Washington" planted a kiss on his cheek, the crowd went wild and Williams blushed.

The tone for yesterday's noontime ceremony was set by the Rev. Mozelle J. Fuller, 79, a member of the Peace Baptist Church in Northeast Washington.

"Heal him, Lord. Heal him of all illness," Fuller prayed.

"You have brought him this far by faith and you have not failed us yet. Be like a sprinkler of water and sprinkle all of us with your love and blessings and please make Doug well so he can do even better things next year," he said.

To the audience's delight, Williams began to replay the highlights of Super Bowl XXII, beginning with when he slipped and hurt his knee late in the first quarter.

"I said to myself, 'Lord, not now,' " Williams recalled. "Toward the end of the second quarter, I was in tremendous pain. I asked the offensive line to just give me a little more time.

"They told me, 'Don't worry, Doug.' Then the receivers and the defense did what they had to do.

"I'm standing here today, but I am not standing alone," said Williams, who threw for a Super Bowl record-tying four touchdowns and set an overall passing record.

The crowd burst into applause.

"When you fell down . . . and hurt your leg, we went down, too," said D.C. Council member Frank Smith Jr. (D-Ward 1).

"And when you rose up, we rose with you."

Dressed in a blue pullover sweater, pink shirt, gray cuffed slacks and brown tassled shoes, Williams was as collegiate as the people he had come to visit.

On campus, he was mobbed by students, faculty and police alike in search of autographs.

"I feel real good," Williams said to those who asked. "But I could use some rest."

Although he entered the gymnasium limping on crutches, he was soon standing without support, seeming to draw strength from his appreciative audience.

"A lot of people write about the black issue in a way that makes it sound like they didn't expect us to win," Williams told his audience.

"Some made the Redskins out to be a circus with a black quarterback.

"It was history to be the first black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl," he said. "But I was not out to be the first black to play it, I was out to be the first black to win it."

After years of handling uncomfortable questions about race with aplomb and diplomacy, Williams had decided to talk freely.

"I have had the opportunity to watch many players say the coach is messing over them -- and deep down, I might have thought that," he said.

"But you still have to go to practice and be prepared to play because you never know when the opportunity might come."

"Early in the year, I wanted to be traded," he said. "But {Redskins Coach Joe} Gibbs said no. My mom always said the Lord works in mysterious ways.

"People sometimes ask what is that black and white thing about," Williams continued.

"I say I don't know. I'm a Redskin. You see, there are 28 teams in the NFL. Two years ago, only one of them gave me a call: the Washington Redskins.

"I don't plan to play much longer," the 32-year-old star said, "but I want to end my career here in Washington, D.C."

When the program ended students streamed from the gym seemingly inspired and impressed.

"We are so pleased he decided to make Howard his first college stop," said Robyn Ferguson, 21, an elementary education major at Howard, as her friend, JoAnn Smith, 20, beamed with pride.

"As a fellow graduate of a historically black college, he has shown us we can acheive anything we set out to," said O'Brien Osborne, 22, also an elementary education major.

"We are here to congratulate him."