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Latest honor reinforces Panthers owner Richardson had impact on both Carolinas

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jerry Richardson wanted the Carolina Panthers to represent North Carolina and South Carolina when he founded the NFL team more than 20 years ago because both states had been such a big part of his life.

Richardson was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame on Thursday night in Greenville, South Carolina. It's a testament to his accomplishments that he's the only person to be inducted into the North Carolina and South Carolina business and athletic halls of fame.

Unfortunately, Richardson wasn’t able to attend Thursday’s ceremony, which also included the induction of former Clemson and NFL safety Brian Dawkins, former University of South Carolina and NFL running back Dan Reeves and Charleston native and NFL Hall of Famer Art Shell.

According to team officials, Richardson had a scheduling conflict that couldn’t be avoided.

Not that Richardson would have wanted the attention. He prefers to stay in the background, particularly when it comes to the Panthers and what happens on the field. He likely would have spent more time congratulating the other inductees than talking about himself.

But there’s no doubt this honor meant something to Richardson. Charlie Dayton, the Panthers long-time director of communications and now head of alumni and historical affairs, put it best in an interview with the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald at the ceremony.

“It combines the two things that are so close to his heart, South Carolina and football,’’ Dayton said.

Richardson was an All-American wide receiver at Wofford College in Spartanburg. After a brief career in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts, he returned to Spartanburg to start what would turn into a business empire in the food industry that afforded him the income to start the Panthers.

Richardson made sure it was a team of both Carolinas, naming it the Carolina Panthers instead of the North Carolina or Charlotte Panthers. The team has held training camp at Wofford since the first season in 1995.

Home games for the first season were played at Clemson, while what is now Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte was being completed.

Richardson’s North Carolina roots are strong as well. He was born in Spring Hope and grew up in Fayetteville. Charlotte was his first and really only option for the home of the Panthers.

In Richardson’s absence on Thursday, team president and former Wofford athletics director Danny Morrison accepted the award.

“The state of South Carolina and the game of football have obviously been very important to Mr. Richardson,’’ Morrison said. “And to be inducted into the Hall of Fame that combines the two is a great honor.”