- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Returning to his home state of North Carolina for the first time wearing an opposing colored jersey, the former UNC and Carolina Panthers star may be in line for a hostile reception Sunday in Charlotte.
"That's what fans do," Peppers said Wednesday. "That's why they come to the game, it's a part of the game. You're there to boo the opposing the team. I'm not a part of [that] team anymore, so I understand that. They have to do that in certain instances.
Like I said before, I have a lot of fans in that area. That's my home, I'm from there [Wilson, NC]. Hopefully that will be the crowd that shows up to the game."
Before signing a six-year, $91.5 million contract with the Bears in the offseason, Peppers played 11 seasons in the state of North Carolina. He was named the nation's top lineman and top overall defensive player during his final season playing for the Tar Heels, and was selected No. 2 overall by Carolina in the 2002 NFL draft. Peppers posted double-digit sack totals in six of his eight years with the Panthers, and was voted to five Pro Bowls.
"I'm looking forward to the game and playing in a place that I'm fond of," Peppers said. "A place that I spent a lot of time in and had great memories [at]. I appreciate that city and those fans, and everything they did for me during my whole career.
"It is just another game, but I think before the game, leading up to it, [you got to keep] those emotions in check. All the other stuff really doesn't matter once the ball is snapped. But before the game, I'm not going to sit here and say I'm not going to have a lot of different thoughts and emotions going through [me]. That's the reality of it."
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.