SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Standing onstage before a crowd of cheering people, John Unitas couldn't resist saying his piece.
All afternoon, he had resisted a direct answer. He had public relations people tell reporters not to bother asking. But, once onstage, he smiled slyly and finally addressed the question everybody wanted to ask.
What was John Unitas, the man most closely identified with football in Baltimore, doing here at a pep rally for the Carolinas, one of Baltimore's rivals in the NFL expansion race?
"Through a whole lot of controversy, I'm here," Unitas said. "I'm here as a friend of Jerry Richardson. We've known each other a long time, so when his son Mark asked me to come sign autographs, I was glad to do it.
"It's a favor to a friend, that's all. That's what friends are for, isn't it?" Unitas said.
"I don't see anything wrong with it."
Richardson, the head of the Carolinas group that is seeking to put a team in Charlotte, N.C., was Unitas' teammate on the Baltimore Colts in 1959 and 1960.
NB "We're good friends," said Richardson, who closed the rally by
catching a short toss from Unitas. "This has nothing to do with endorsing the Carolinas over Baltimore. To suggest that is ridiculous. Friendship is stronger than people trying to get an NFL franchise."
Unitas said he is 100 percent behind Baltimore's expansion bid and always has been.
"I would love to see a franchise there," he said.
"The people there want it badly. Baseball is doing well and it's great, but Baltimore is really a football town."