The Associated Press
ATLANTA Ä When Deion's around, there's never a dull moment.
The former Atlanta two-sport star now with the San Francisco 49ers gave a packed Georgia Dome all the excitement and intrigue it could handle Sunday: he started a fistfight with Andre Rison, electrified the crowd with a 93-yard interception return for a score and then sat out the second half with a groin injury sustained during his jaunt into the end zone.
Sanders' touchdown run gave the 49ers a 28-3 halftime lead.
It was clear before the start of the game that the love-hate relationship between Sanders and the town where he once played baseball with the Braves and football with the Falcons was alive again.
Wearing a red bandana atop his head, Sanders was back for the first time as an ex-Falcon, in a 49ers uniform. He was greeted by a sea of boos during pregame introductions from the sellout crowd.
In addition, the game meant something. Both teams were 4-2 and tied for first place in the NFC West. It also was a matchup of two Pro Bowl players Ä cornerback Sanders and wide receiver Rison, never close friends as teammates.
The booing erupted in earnest only 3:22 into the second period when Sanders and Rison grappled, then started throwing punches on a first-down play at the 49ers' 24-yard line.
Sanders threw the first punch Ä a left hook Ä to the helmet of Rison and in machine-like fashion, threw four more left hooks to the same spot. Rison retaliated with two punches of his own before the melee was broken up.
The crowd screamed and cheered its approval when Sanders was assessed a half-the-distance personal foul of 12 yards to the 49ers' 12.
On Atlanta's next possession, Sanders was called for pass interference on Rison, being nailed for a 22-yard penalty to the 49ers' 10, again to the delight of the crowd.
Four plays later, however, Sanders quieted the crowd by intercepting a Jeff George pass and returning it 93 yards for a touchdown with 1:34 left in the half.
Sanders, who had a 74-yard TD interception return in his first game with the 49ers, turned toward the Atlanta bench and appeared to say something to his former teammates before high-stepping the final 10 yards into the end zone as the 49er bench emptied to congratulate him.
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