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Pacers' Jackson 'happy to be alive'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson is
"happy to be alive," after being punched in the mouth and hit by
a car during a fight at a strip club in which police say he fired a
gun in the air.

"I'm definitely blessed to be here today. I didn't really think I'd
be up the next day after I got hit by a car and be walking. But I'm
definitely blessed. I'm glad to be on the court. I'm happy to be
alive and be able to be with my teammates and my family."
-- Stephen Jackson

"I want to apologize to my teammates, to the fans and to this
organization," Jackson said Tuesday after his first practice since
the fight early Friday. "It was a very unfortunate incident. I
definitely take responsibility for my action and everything I've
done."

Team president Larry Bird said he was disappointed, especially
because the Pacers are still trying to win their fans back after
the brawl with Detroit Pistons fans two years ago. Jackson was
suspended 30 games for his part in the brawl.

"This is a tough one, there's no question about it," Bird
said. "We're not very happy with what happened, but we've got to
move on and really concentrate on the season.

"It hurts. You care about this franchise and you're a part of
it, it's got to hurt."

Indianapolis police on Tuesday arrested Deon Willford, 23, on
felony counts relating to the fight, including criminal
recklessness and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident,
and a misdemeanor count of driving without a license.

Willford drove a car that hit Jackson, sending him tumbling over
the hood, said Indianapolis Police spokesman Sgt. Matthew Mount.
Police said Jackson fired a gun in the air in apparent self-defense
during the fight.

Jackson has stitches in his lip and other scrapes and bruises.

"I'm definitely blessed to be here today," he said in his
first public comments since the fight. "I didn't really think I'd
be up the next day after I got hit by a car and be walking. But I'm
definitely blessed. I'm glad to be on the court. I'm happy to be
alive and be able to be with my teammates and my family."

He could be available to play in the Pacers' second preseason
game against Utah on Saturday.

"He did more today than we expected him to," Indiana coach
Rick Carlisle said. "He actually did some medium contact stuff,
and he just insisted on doing it. Fortunately, he didn't take any
hits or anything."

Carlisle said Jackson was a little bit rusty.

"He's a little behind conditioning-wise now after missing four
days," Carlisle said.

Besides Jackson, teammates Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels and
Jimmie Hunter were at the club at 3 a.m., police said. Officers
said they found a small amount of marijuana in the passenger-side
door of point guard Tinsley's car. But no arrests were made because
there were three others in Tinsley's car and police could not
determine who had the marijuana, authorities said.

The Indianapolis Star reported on Monday that Jackson has had his probation extended one year after he did not complete the terms of the sentence he received for the 2004 brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Oakland County (Mich.) assistant prosecutor John Pietrofesa told the paper that last week's incident had no bearing on his decision because no charges were filed.

Former Pacers star Reggie Miller criticized the players on
Monday. The league's all-time leader in 3-point goals went on Dan
Patrick's ESPN Radio show and said the actions by the four players
were a "punch in the gut" to team CEO Donnie Walsh and president
Larry Bird. He also criticized coach Rick Carlisle, saying his
training camp hasn't been difficult enough if the players have
enough energy to be partying at 3 a.m.

Bird said Tuesday he had no response to Miller's comments. Tinsley said he'd rather focus on preparing for Wednesday's
preseason opener against New Jersey.

"Everybody's going to have their own opinion," Tinsley said.
"We're just going to go out there and play basketball and stay
together and hopefully, win a lot of games."

Miller also criticized Carlisle, saying his training camp hasn't
been difficult enough if the players have enough energy to be
partying at 3 a.m.

Carlisle said Bird addressed the players before practice and
told them he and Walsh were proud of their effort and intensity
during training camp.

"I have unbelievable respect for Reggie Miller, both as a
player and a person, and consider him a friend," Carlisle said.
"He's obviously earned the right to have an opinion. From a
basketball standpoint, we're doing everything possible to develop
this team to be the best it can be."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.