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John Ryan settled on a character that was neither human nor animal. It resembled a blue tear, with hands sprouting three fingers and a thumb, lightning eyebrows, and a big, sheepish grin.
Athletes, musicians, local leaders, and metro Atlanta residents share their memories of the games—taking home the gold, chauffeuring Muhammad Ali, collecting pins, riding MARTA, performing for Bill and Hillary Clinton, and more.
In 1990, when Atlanta beat out Athens to host the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, it was an impressive come-from-behind win, even for a former University of Georgia football star. William “Billy” Porter Payne, an All-SEC defensive end for the Dawgs and Dunwoody real estate lawyer, dreamed up Atlanta’s quixotic bid and served as CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
Not so long ago, Billy Payne was the most famous man in Atlanta. He was hailed as a hero, an improbable good old boy who had a dream and forced it to come true. He traveled the world, bridged the gaps between political correctness and corporate interests, made friends with royals dignitaries, helped revive a dying inner city and gave millions of people the experience of a lifetime. He did what he set out to do, and is trying to get back to what he used to do – carry on with his private life. In private.