Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) shakes hands with Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Devin Hester (17) after Atlanta Falcons won 36-20 during the NFC divisional playoffs at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, January 14, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Hester hurts Falcons in return

The Falcons decided to release kick returner Devin Hester after he had a disappointing, injury-plagued season in 2015. Hester returned to the Georgia Dome on Saturday and did his best to haunt his former team.

Hester set up two Seattle scores with long kickoff returns. His 78-yard return to the Falcons’ 31 led to Doug Baldwin’s TD on the next play and Hester’s 50-yard kickoff return set up a go-ahead field goal in the second quarter.

Those returns ended up not mattering much as the Falcons ran away to a 36-20 victory.

Hester also had a long punt return called back in the second quarter because of a Seahawks penalty.

Hester fielded Matt Bosher’s punt at the Seahawks’ 13-yard line, cut across the field to his left and ran down the left sideline until getting pushed out of bounds at the Falcons’ 8-yard line. But a holding penalty against Kevin Pierre-Louis brought the ball back to Seattle’s 7-yard line.

The Ravens released Hester on Dec. 13, and the Seahawks signed him three days before their wild-card game against the Lions last weekend. Against the Lions, Hester returned one kickoff for 20 yards and one punt for five yards.

Hester, the NFL’s all-time leader in return touchdowns, was effective for the Falcons during the 2014 season. But he played just five games in 2015 because of a toe injury, and the Falcons released him before 2016 training camp.

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