Brian Banks got his first chance at playing in an NFL game Thursday night. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Brian Banks played a little football Thursday night and quite possibly a meaningless preseason game was sweeter to him than to any other NFL rookie.

Banks, 28, is the Atlanta Falcons linebacker who spent five years in prison and another five on probation after being convicted of rape and kidnapping charges. When the woman who made the accusation when Banks was 16 retracted it, his conviction was overturned in May 2012.

“It was out of control,” Banks said (via’s Jeff Schultz) after the Falcons’ 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. “Just running out there, the flames, the cheers and the crowd, it was emotional, it really was. I wasn’t nervous at all. I wasn’t overexcited or anything, but just running out of that tunnel, I mean, the adrenaline that comes with that is just indescribable.

“It’s better than any roller-coaster ride you can ever get on.”

Banks played the game — a version of it, anyway — in prison. “We played flag football, but they really didn’t use the flags,” he said. “There was a lot of tackling.” Last year, he played in two games with Las Vegas of the United Football League in 2012. Thursday night, he had two tackles and, admittedly, is something of a longshot to make the final 53-player roster. He’s third on the depth chart at middle linebacker.

“I don’t feel like I have to [make it], but I want to — not just for myself but for my family, for the people who’ve supported me and believed in me,” he said. “For people who’ve lost hope in their own [life]. If I can be some kind of vessel, to show people that no matter the hard time you experienced, you can still succeed, I want to put out that positive energy, to never quit and never give up.”

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