SUWANEE, GA., SEPT. 7 -- The waitress at the Falcon Inn restaurant had just placed a heaping plate of chicken wings in front of Jerry Glanville when, turning to go back to the kitchen, she remembered she had something to tell the new head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

"I heard Elvis is going to be here tonight for that 'open mike' talent show," she blurted.

"I heard that too," Glanville said. "Isn't that great?"

"He's singing," she said, proudly.

"Which Elvis is it?" he asked.

"It's the real one," she told him.

"The real Elvis is here?" Glanville said. "Great. I love it when he shows up."

Glanville, the bad boy of NFL coaches, has moved from Houston to Atlanta, and, apparently, Elvis has moved with him. No one knows if Elvis needs tickets for Sunday's game between Houston and Atlanta, but Glanville, who has made a name for himself leaving tickets at will call for famous dead people, including Elvis, said he wouldn't leave him tickets this time anyway.

"I never do that at home games," he said over dinner the other day. "If I did, I'd probably leave them for {Houston general manager and Glanville enemy} Mike Holovak. He's as close to dead as anybody I know."

Glanville was flanked by three of his assistant coaches as he spoke. He laughed a hearty laugh. They all joined in.

It's all fun and games in Atlanta these days as Glanville prepares his new team to face his old team Sunday at 4 p.m. at sold-out Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. That the stadium is going to be full is a story in itself. Already, three Falcons home games are sold out this season. Only two were sold out during the Falcons' dismal 3-13 season in 1989, both at the last minute.

"It's a college atmosphere around here," said defensive end Tim Green. "There is a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement. In the four years I've been here, there hasn't been much of that."

When Glanville left the Oilers and the "House of Pain" by way of a "mutual agreement" with Holovak and owner Bud Adams, he landed in Atlanta a week later. He immediately said this was the greatest coaching job in the world, and Glanville should know, because he's had a lot of them. Not least among them was a six-year stint as a defensive assistant here, where he created the "Grits Blitz" defense that set an NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season (129 in 14 games in 1977).

So now he was back, battered by the criticism of his own Oilers players and his rival AFC coaches, but hardly bowed. He decided the Falcons' primary color -- like his own -- would be black. The team will wear black home jerseys for the first time since 1971, and black helmets. (Shops carrying the old red T-shirts and souvenirs have priced them to move.) What's more, the mood is dark and foreboding; Raiders-style hitting has become the order of the day.

In a scrimmage with Philadelphia last month in Macon, Ga., there were three everybody-off-the-bench brawls and at least two dozen other fights. Glanville himself stormed five yards onto the field in one heated moment, screaming and shouting at Eagles personnel man Joe Woolley.

"It's going to be fire and brimstone and rock-and-roll, all rolled into one," Glanville explained.

Glanville also saw to it that his team, wearing just shorts and T-shirts in spring minicamp, hit each other just as if the players were wearing full pads. And, on the opening day of training camp, he ordered full-contact drills.

"The way he has us playing football is the way football should be played," Green said. "He puts stock in hitting and hustle. I like that. We needed a shock treatment and I can't think of a more effective shock treatment than a coach like Jerry Glanville."

Green is polite, mild-mannered, an English Lit graduate from Syracuse who was co-valedictorian his senior year, hopes to write a novel and is a second-year law student. It would be surprising to see him make a late hit, or even tolerate a teammate doing it. Yet, perhaps because things were so unbearable the other way, he has taken to Glanville and his "living on the edge," fly-to-the-ball style of play.

"He preaches hitting and intensity," Green said. "Sometimes other teams don't like that. It's misconstrued as dirty football. But he doesn't tell us to go out there and get penalties and make late hits and get into fights. Sometimes, with his teams, guys get carried away on their own. Players get hit after the whistle. I guess it's the price you pay for being overly aggressive.

"For me, being in Atlanta the past four years, I'd much rather be penalized for being overly aggressive than have someone knock me off the ball 10 yards. I'd rather give up 10 yards in a penalty than 10 yards not getting it done physically."

"Football isn't a gentlemanly sport," said offensive guard Bill Fralic. "It is a violent game. To play the game the way it is supposed to be played is borderline breaking rules. You push everything to the limit. Jerry preaches, 'Live on the edge.' When you are playing aggressive football, you do things to the point where you stretch the rules or go as far as you can. I've never heard him preach about cheap-shotting people. We're just going to go out and play aggressive football, gang-tackle people and we're not going to take anything from anybody.

"And when somebody comes into our stadium, I'd like them to be fearful about doing it or regret having to come there. That's the way football is meant to be. Maybe he's received more notoriety than some other coaches, but I'm sure if you went around the league, there are a lot of other people preaching the same things but maybe not in the same manner."

It has worked, so far. For the first time in their history, the Falcons went undefeated in the preseason, 4-0. Most teams don't worry too much about their preseason record but, here, it was important.

"It was the first time I've seen this team go out and expect to win," Green said.

Still, in 1986, Glanville's first full season in Houston, the Oilers went 4-0 in preseason and lost eight of their first nine games before ending at 5-11.

Much has been made of Sunday's game against the team that let him go in January. Glanville professes not to care who he is playing, but that's hard to believe. For instance, he won't mention the words "Houston" and "Oilers" this week, only "that team from Texas."

Perhaps too much has been made of it, says the man who has taken Glanville's place on the Houston sideline, Jack Pardee.

"Jerry's not going to be on the field," Pardee said.

Knowing Glanville, he quickly reconsidered.

"If he is, we'll be getting some yardage out of it."

All Glanville will say is he's glad the game is in Atlanta, not the Astrodome. He was booed off the field after the Oilers lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC wild card game last season, immediately following two consecutive regular season losses, one a 61-7 drubbing by Cincinnati.

"It would be much more emotional if I were in the Astrodome and I didn't come down the tunnel I've come down for six years and I did not go to the sideline I've been going to for six years and I came out the far end where the crowd always boos and throws things at Chuck Noll."

No conversation goes on for very long before Glanville pounces on either Noll or Sam Wyche, two coaches who chastised him personally and in print for his aggressive coaching tactics.

Glanville has taken a measure of revenge this fall with the publishing of his entertaining little autobiography, "Elvis Don't Like Football." The first chapter is devoted entirely to Elvis and Glanville's peculiar affection for him, dating back two years ago to a preseason game in Memphis, when Glanville decided to leave him two tickets at will call.

It took Glanville just eight pages to bring Noll and Wyche into the action. After saying he put Elvis into the preseason game at tight end and he dropped a pass, Glanville says: "I still say Elvis should've coached in the AFC Central against guys like Chuck Noll and Sam Wyche. Now that's a reason to fake your own death."

And that's just the first chapter. It's a curious work: While Elvis gets the title, a full chapter and the ending, Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, the man who led Glanville's team to three consecutive playoff appearances, is not mentioned, not even once.

"Wait until you read the next book," Glanville said. "We'll tell the truth in that one. At the time we wrote this one, we thought we were going to still be in Houston, so we had to hold back the good stuff."

Glanville doesn't let more than a couple of minutes pass without mentioning the book. At practice, when a player looks at him quizzically, an assistant coach will yell out, "Read the book! You'll know why."

The players haven't read the book yet.

"I was an English major in college," Green said gingerly. "The kind of books I read are different."

"We'll cut him tomorrow," Glanville said with a laugh when told what Green said. "He don't realize we get $1.18 for everybody that reads that sucker. We'll get rid of him tomorrow."

Tomorrow came and went and Green was still around.

It's a big riot with the Falcons now, and why not? Glanville knows the fans don't expect much. The team hasn't been in the playoffs since 1982 and closed out the '80s with six last-place NFC West finishes in seven years.

"I can't tell you the month when they won their last game," he said. "It was probably October."

It was Nov. 5, a 30-28 victory over Buffalo.

Yet the players say they are not affected by the sideshow.

"When we are out here playing football, there is no talk of Elvis," Fralic said. But when they're not playing. . . .

"Everyone thinks I left tickets for Elvis every week," Glanville said. "I did it one time. One time. Can't anybody take a joke anymore?"