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Gwinnett products team up again

All three were standout football players as Georgia Bulldogs. All went on to NFL careers. None have forgotten where they came from.

Gwinnett products Matt and Jon Stinchcomb, along with former Bulldog teammate David Greene, don't have any official ties to their college, but the three have teamed up again for UGA Countdown to Kickoff, now in its fourth year.

The idea is to raise money for children's charities, while also offering Bulldog fans the opportunity to mingle with current and former UGA football greats. This year's event is highlighted by the July 18 fan day, which is preceded by a July 17 golf tournament and auction/awards night.

"I think it's one of those deals, once you're a Dog, you're always a Dog," said Greene, a South Gwinnett grad who left UGA as the NCAA's career leader in wins by a starting quarterback. "We've been given so much. We want to give back if we can by gathering Georgia players and raising money for charity."

Sponsorships are available, as are spots in the July 17 golf tourney and auction/awards party. But the bigger draw for the masses is the July 18 event, which allows a group of 1,500 fans the opportunity for fun with Bulldog football stars from 3 to 6 p.m. on UGA's practice field.

Fans can get autographs, but the event is set up so people interact more personally with players, whether it's chatting with Garrison Hearst or playing catch with Greene. A number of former UGA stars are invited each year, and many make appearances at fan day.

But current UGA players also attend the gathering in great numbers.

"We've had the opportunity to interact with some of these (current players) and they've been great," said Parkview grad Matt Stinchcomb, now retired from the NFL, who will be joined by his younger brother, current New Orleans Saints lineman Jon. "They support this event out of their own volition. Nobody's telling them to be there. They just do it out of the kindness of their hearts."

All proceeds from the event go to four charities - the Georgia Transplant Foundation, the Children's Tumor Foundation, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and UGA's pediatric exercise and motion development program.

The philanthropy is nice for the former players, but so is giving the fans a rare treat.

"That's where we started, as fans," Matt Stinchcomb said. "Jon and I were Georgia fans before we were Georgia players. Now we sit in the stands on Saturdays and root for the Dogs, just like everybody else. You're a fan a lot longer than you're a player. So it's fun for us and the fans."

SideBar: UGA FOOTBALL

What: University of Georgia Countdown to Kickoff

When: July 17-18

Where: Athens

On the Web: www.ugakickoff.com and www.gatransplant.org

Tickets: Online or by calling Kristin Stanley at the Georgia Transplant Foundation, 678-514-1187

Noteworthy:

· Event features golf and auction/awards night on July 17, fan day on July 18

· Tickets to fan day are $25 each or a family pack at $75 for four tickets

· All proceeds go to four children's health charities

· Event is run by Gwinnett grads and former UGA players Matt and Jon Stinchcomb, and David Greene