In 1963, Atkinson helped lead Johnson to a state championship game in the old Georgia Interscholastic Association, the governing body for black high schools during segregation. He would go on to play at Morris Brown in Atlanta, then the Oakland Raiders for 10 years. Atkinson was a starting strong safety for two Super Bowl teams, including the Raiders' 1976 squad that defeated the Minnesota Vikings.
Atkinson was back in his hometown last year to meet with Johnson's players and other students as part of the NFL's celebration of Super Bowl 50. As a former Super Bowl player, Atkinson presented the school with a commemorative golden football.