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Smiles all around


The Atlanta Falcons are always present in the community, but Tuesday was a special day as they participated in the league-wide Hometown Huddle event. The Falcons were the only NFL team that involved their entire roster — active and practice squad — in getting the word out about the importance of health, fitness and community service

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons and other NFL players, coaches and executives spread the word on the importance of health and fitness Tuesday during a league-wide day of community service.

The Atlanta Falcons were the only NFL team that involved their entire roster in this event. The Falcons visited four different metro Atlanta schools that have affiliation with the United Way and participated in “NFL PLAY 60” activities with the children.

"I think it starts from the top. (Owner Arthur) Blankkind of sets a tone for the organization that we're going to be active within in the community," quarterback Matt Ryansaid Tuesday. "He wants to do this once a year with the Hometown Huddle and get all the guys out. The outreach is more than if it's just a handful of guys. We get together at a bunch of different places and I think it's a great thing."

The Falcons also visited four other public stops, where they surprised fans, signed autographs and thanked them for their support. The Atlanta Falcons Women's Association visited a United Way affiliated agency, the Sheltering Arms location in Centennial Olympic Park. The ladies read short stories to preschool children.

The stops the Falcons made included: Glen Haven Elementary in Decatur, Ga.; Robert Shaw Elementary in Scottsdale, Ga.; Dunbar Elementary in Atlanta; John F. Kennedy Middle School in Atlanta; Publix in Loganville, Ga.; Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta; Grady Hospital in Atlanta and Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

"I had a lot of fun today," cornerback Brian Williamssaid. "It's good to always get out in the community and see the kids. Hopefully, we can give them some hope and encourage them to keep doing good."

During the 12th annual NFL-United Way Hometown Huddle — a series of volunteer projects implemented on the same day in NFL cities nationwide — teams helped rebuilding playgrounds, hosted youth football clinics and helped kids stay active for 60 minutes a day as part of "NFL PLAY 60", the league's youth health and fitness campaign.

As much as the kids who received visits from the Falcons enjoyed the day, the players had just as much fun, if not more. Cornerback Christopher Owenseven had a favorite part of the day.

"The pictures. Want to know why? Because everybody seemed happy," he said. "Everybody had a great smile. It was the conclusion of the entire day, and I felt like it was the icing on the cake. I felt like they enjoyed themselves, and we did."

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