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Owens says he will give induction speech at Chattanooga

By The Associated Press
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Terrell Owens has decided to celebrate his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Chattanooga, where he played college football.

The former NFL All-Pro receiver, who has said he was not attending the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, released a statement on Tuesday saying he would give his acceptance speech at his alma mater.

"I have decided to give my Hall of Fame speech at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in McKenzie Arena on Saturday, August 4," Owens posted on Twitter. "The event, which is free and open to the public, starts at 3:17 p.m."

Owens added that he is "proud to be a Moc, and I'm honored to be able to share this experience with my family, friends, teammates and fans at the place that provided me an opportunity beyond high school and where I truly began to find myself as an athlete."

The 44-year-old Owens said he is looking forward to the event, and "Getcha popcorn ready."

Owens was a three-sport athlete at Chattanooga, where he played football from 1992-95. He also played basketball and ran track for the Mocs. Owens said he "realized just how much I want to celebrate what will inevitably be the best weekend of my life at a place that means so much to me."

He was voted into the hall in February after being denied in his first two years of eligibility. His announcement last month that he was skipping the Aug. 4 induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame is unprecedented by an enshrinee.

In a statement released last month by his publicist, Owens said: "While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony in Canton.

"After visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere," Owens added. "At a later date, I will announce where and when I will celebrate my induction."

Chattanooga athletic director Mark Wharton said Tuesday that Owens first spoke with school officials "several months ago" about the possibility of having some type of event in Chattanooga. At the time, Owens hadn't yet indicated he was skipping the Canton induction ceremony.

Wharton said Owens spoke with them again "two to three weeks ago" about the possibility of giving his induction speech on campus and that officials were "ecstatic" about the idea.

"Obviously we supported him going to Canton," Wharton said. "At the time, there hadn't been any living Hall of Fame members who did not go to Canton, so our assumption was that he was (going to Canton). But in multiple conversations with him and his team, he felt most comfortable doing it in a place that molded him into the player and person he is today."

Wharton said the specifics of the Aug. 4 ceremony haven't been finalized, but he expects a weekend full of events around town honoring Owens.

Owens entered the league as a third-round pick by San Francisco in 1996 and developed into a star known for some memorable playoff appearances, including his winning 25-yard TD catch to beat Green Bay in 1999; his 177 yards in a comeback win against the Giants in 2003; and his nine catches for 122 yards in the 2004 Super Bowl against New England just seven weeks after breaking his leg.

He ranks second to Jerry Rice with 15,934 yards receiving and is third on the all-time touchdowns receiving list with 153.

Owens heavily criticized the voting process when he failed to be elected in 2016 and 2017. Among the reasons he fell short were his being considered a divisive teammate and negative presence in the locker room.

___

AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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