Keyshawn makes first public appearance in Charlotte

Updated: April 12, 2006, 8:54 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The last time Keyshawn Johnson attended an NBA game in Charlotte he was viciously booed and security guards followed him out of the building to ensure his safety.

That was almost four months ago, when Johnson was a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

Now that he's a member of the Carolina Panthers, the wide receiver is one of the most popular guys in Charlotte.

Johnson received a rousing ovation shortly after settling into his courtside seat at Wednesday night's game between the Bobcats and the Memphis Grizzlies. It was his first public appearance since signing with the Panthers last month.

"You could say this reception was a little better," he said with a wide grin. "Charlotte's been pretty good to me so far. I've been out around the city a little bit, but you could say this is my first time out."

Johnson is quickly adapting to the latest stop in his 10-year career. He flourished under the bright lights of New York while playing with the Jets, won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and remained a star the last two seasons in Dallas.

But none of those cities is quite like Charlotte, a sleepy Southern city where the rich and famous have few places to hide. The Panthers, Bobcats and NASCAR stars are full-blown celebrities here, their every move open to the public.

For Johnson, it meant a seat next to Bobcats owner Bob Johnson on Wednesday night and very few peaceful moments. His conversation was interrupted every few minutes by young fans clamoring for his autograph.

Conversely, Carolina receivers Keary Colbert and Drew Carter went largely unnoticed in their seats three rows behind Johnson. And when they were shown on the scoreboard, their reception was lukewarm compared to the adulation Johnson received.

But Johnson was quick to point out he's had it both ways: He said the booing he received last December, the night before the Cowboys played the Panthers, was nothing compared to the way he was treated at a Philadelphia 76ers game in 2003.

"We were there for the NFC championship and I went to a basketball game and people were throwing stuff at me," he laughed. "It was so bad security had to escort us out. I've been in the middle of some stuff in my days."

Not in Charlotte, he won't be. He's already joined the Panthers for their voluntary team workouts, he said, and is currently looking for a place to live.

"I'm looking forward to my time here," he said. "I'm getting settled and I think I'm really going to like it in Charlotte."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press