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Atlanta not a new attraction for Georgia football players

Bowl trips are supposed to be rewards for college football players.

Georgia players have road tripped or hopped on a plane to Tampa, Orlando and New Orleans the past three years for bowl games, spending the week having fun, often in the sun.

This afternoon, many of the native Georgians will have a short drive to the Omni in downtown Atlanta, the team's hotel for Monday's relocated Sugar Bowl.

"I don't think there's anywhere you can take me in Atlanta that I haven't already been besides the aquarium," said tailback Thomas Brown, a Tucker native, and one of 84 homegrown players on the roster.

If you can name it in Atlanta, chances are good that Georgia's players have already experienced it.

Underground Atlanta. Buckhead. The World of Coca-Cola museum. CNN Center.

"You pretty much know what's going on in the city and you know what all the hot spots are," said wide receiver Bryan McClendon from Atlanta. "The biggest thing is you have to enjoy it. There's not a lot of time when I'm in Atlanta that I can just sit back and play football and have nothing else to do and stay in a nice hotel like we're doing. Most of the time I'm in Atlanta, I'm running around for momma or cleaning up."

Georgia will hold practices in the morning, allowing plenty of time the rest of the day. Among activities scheduled: visiting the new Georgia Aquarium, attending Friday's Peach Bowl between LSU and Miami, going to the ESPNZone and eating at Maggiano's.

"I think it's going to be a great trip," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I think the guys think that, too. Some of the events that they are hearing about going to, they're pretty excited about."

What they're not excited about is the size of their mileage checks. Players look forward to bowl trips for a chance to pocket much-needed money, but the check for many this year is small because of the short distance to the bowl site.

Senior Albert Hollis II, whose career ended because of a knee injury and is now a student coach, gets the biggest check - about $2,500 for the roundtrip from his home in Sacramento, Calif. Defensive tackle Dale Dixson from Garland, Texas, said he'll get about $800, but will only pocket $200 after spending $600 on his plane ticket.

"That's still $150 more than they're getting," Dixson said of most of his teammates.

At least Georgia players are getting into the popular Georgia Aquarium, the one place mentioned by most as their must-see spot.

"The only attraction I want to see is the aquarium," quarterback D.J. Shockley said. "I'm an animal kind of guy. I like to see animals that I don't see every day."

Said tailback Kregg Lumpkin: "I like underwater fish. I like sharks and stuff like that. It's amazing, how they float and swim and just the life cycles of fish and everything in the ocean."

On bowl trips, many a player becomes a night owl. In Atlanta, many Georgia players will be extremely familiar with the nightclub scene.

"There are a lot of clubs and Atlanta girls," Lumpkin said. "There's a lot of distractions, but we've got to stay focused. We're tying to win this game."

Added tailback Thomas Brown: "I think definitely when we're out, we're going to see a lot of people we know in the Atlanta area even if we don't plan for it."

Players will park their cars at the hotel and be asked to leave their keys, associate athletic director Arthur Johnson said.

"I'm from Atlanta and a lot of guys from our team are from Atlanta and we'll be able to spend a lot more time with our family and friends," said defensive tackle Kedric Golston, who is from Fayetteville. "We practice early in the morning and then we get a lot of time off. I've got a little niece at home that I don't really get to see much because of the season so I'll probably go spend a lot of time with her."

Two Georgia state troopers will accompany the team and provide security at the hotel on a trip that more than 120 players will make.

"It's like any bowl," Richt said. "You want them to have a good time, but it's got to be in the framework we have designed for them. They'll be curfews, bed checks. We'll be thorough. We've sent guys home before. We'll do it again if we have to, even if they only have to go a couple of blocks."