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Allen Iverson was teary almost from the time he sat down, his usual stream-of-consciousness talk now a more subdued style of speaking. The player who once repeated the word “practice” nearly 20 times during a rambling monologue had little time for one-liners. It was contrary to the image Iverson sculpted over a 14-year career filled with coaching run-ins and contradictions.

Iverson could always somehow get away with his transgressions when he was an MVP and a regular All-Star. At 34 and considered a bench player by his last two teams, the lengthy list nearly ended his career.

When the Philadelphia 76ers, his former team, offered him an NBA lifeline — A.I. snatched his last shot.

“When I had the opportunity to come back here,” Iverson said, a pause as his voice cracked, “I couldn’t turn it down. I’m just happy.”

Iverson returns to the organization he led to the NBA finals in 2001 and won four scoring titles. The 76ere are the only team known to make a serious run at Iverson once he announced his intention to retire last week, a fact that humbled Iverson and made him realize he may have cupped his ears to the roaring crowd for the last time.

“It’s just a bad rap,” Iverson said Thursday at the Wachovia Center.

“Once guys in the front office start calling about a player, and you’ve made the mistakes that I’ve made, you could see why that guys were laying off me. I never thought it had anything to do with basketball issues. It was always stuff off the court.”

Iverson will play his first game against Denver on Monday night in a city absolutely thundering over his arrival.

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