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Jones honored with lifetime achievement award

Chipper Jones got another chance for a thank you.

Jones, the newly retired Braves third baseman, was honored Tuesday night by the Atlanta Sports Council with a lifetime achievement award at its annual Atlanta Sports Awards banquet at the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom.

“It’s basically an old-man award, but it’s nice to be recognized for your body of work,” Jones said from the podium.

Jones paid homage to Atlanta’s other professional sports teams and took up for the city and its reputation for not producing winning teams.

“I am extremely proud of the town that I live in, the town that I played in for the last 20 years,” he said. “Whenever the national media get to talking about Atlanta sports teams, I think the phrase that comes immediately to mind is (to heck with them).”

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Jones spoke of how he has become a Falcons fan despite having grown up rooting for the Steelers. The Falcons were honored as the team of the year, over the Georgia and Norcross High football teams. Jones praised the Falcons for “playing the game the right way” and referenced owner Arthur Blank’s acceptance speech in which he mentioned buying the team at the end of the 2001 season.

“There was a rumor that he was going to buy the Braves for a while and he was talking (in the speech) about stroking a $545 million check,” Jones said, before addressing Blank. “I could probably help you with a couple thousand. Just a thought. Call me.”

It concluded an evening that brought together a number of Atlanta sports notables in addition to the award winners. Among those in attendance were former Falcons running back Warrick Dunn, former Georgia football coach Vince Dooley, gold-medal winning hurdler and Georgia Tech graduate Angelo Taylor, gold medalist and Georgia swimmer Allison Schmidt, bronze medalist shot putter and Georgia grad Reese Hoffa, former Braves pitcher Greg McMichael and former Georgia and Falcons quarterback D.J. Shockley. Former Braves outfielder Ryan Klesko presented Jones.

After he was given the pro athlete of the year award over Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (who was not present) and Braves pitcher Craig Kimbrel, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan mentioned what perhaps many in the audience were thinking.

“Probably should have given it to Tony,” Ryan said. “Maybe we could have convinced him to come back for one more season.”

Ryan and Falcons coach Mike Smith, who was named coach of the year, reported that Gonzalez’ status remains unclear. Ryan said he has been in communication with Gonzalez, as he has done in past offseasons, but doesn’t have a bead on his thinking.

“In all honesty, your guess is as good as mine,” Ryan said. “Tony, he’d be a good poker player. But I think in all honesty, I still do think that his mind’s not made up.”

Smith said that he and Gonzalez have talked “and will talk again sooner rather than later.”

On this night, though, the Falcons took a backseat to Jones. Ryan was quite pleased to have been able to meet Jones, for the first time, prior to the dinner.

“He’s obviously somebody that I watched growing up,” Ryan said, “and I was a Phillies fan, so he killed a lot of my favorite teams when I was young. To meet a guy who has been at the top of his game for a long time (is a thrill), and he’s a great guy, he really is.”

Other award winners were former Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones for college athlete of the year, Norcross High running back Alvin Kamara for high school athlete of the year, Georgia State men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter for the community spirit award and the two high school scholar-athletes of the year, Tori Weprinsky of North Springs High and Jacob Wieczorek of West Forsyth High.

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