Greeted By Cheers, Tyson Returns Home
Mike Tyson came home to a hero’s welcome Tuesday after three years in prison, basking in the cheers of fans and shielded from questions about his rape of a beauty queen.
“The powers that be didn’t want you here and didn’t want me to speak to you,” the former heavyweight champ told a sweltering outdoor rally of more than 500 in Harlem. “But we’ll beat them because God’s on our side.”
Many in his hometown were divided over whether to embrace or shun Tyson. A candlelight vigil for abused women, prompted by his return, was held Monday night.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize Tyson’s return, had insisted it would be a sober homecoming for a prodigal son and dismissed reports that a parade and gala celebration had been planned.
But a festive atmosphere prevailed Tuesday and a block party took shape in front of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where a reggae band played on a flatbed truck and hundreds gathered for the rally in 90-degree-plus temperatures.
The street was blocked off and many people, men and women alike, wore Tyson T-shirts. Speakers compared Tyson to Malcolm X, and one read a letter of support signed by 52 Harlem churches.
Tyson was pleased with the crowd. He spoke about his conversion to Islam in prison, but did not specifically address his conviction. He has maintained his innocence.
Tyson gave out $200,000 in checks for various social programs, and said he ultimately planned to give away $1 million.
He closed by saying, “I’m a little nervous with all these people, but may the Lord bless you.”
Everywhere the former heavyweight champion went, he was greeted by cheers and applause. In the morning, scores of people waited patiently in oppressive heat outside the office where Tyson was meeting with Sharpton.
When the boxer appeared at a third-floor window, the crowd erupted into wild cheers. Tyson raised a clenched right fist and quickly disappeared.
Another crowd gathered in front of a restaurant for a news conference about his August comeback fight. His fans carried cameras and waved pictures for Tyson to sign.
“That’s my man. I had to make sure I saw him,” James Brown, 40, who waited for 4 hours to get a glimpse of Tyson.
Tyson, in a white shirt and tie, spoke little at the news conference.
Had he changed? “If I have, I hope it’s for the better,” Tyson said.
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