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Falcons surprise local firefighters with visit

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Kevin Cone (15) is assisted by Lt. Brent Dunbar of the Gwinnett County Fire Department with putting on fire fighters gear at station 24 in Buford on Wednesday. The players made a surprise visit to thank the service men in commemoration of September 11.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Kevin Cone (15) is assisted by Lt. Brent Dunbar of the Gwinnett County Fire Department with putting on fire fighters gear at station 24 in Buford on Wednesday. The players made a surprise visit to thank the service men in commemoration of September 11.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan The Atlanta Falcons Peria Jerry (94) puts on a fire fighters hemet while sitting in a rescue vehicle at the Gwinnett County Fire Station 24 in Buford on Wednesday. The players made a surprise visit to thank the service men in commemoration of September 11.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Gwinnett County Fire Fighters Zach Schaller, Will Panaro and Web Marshall talk with Atlanta Falcons Garrett Reynolds (75) and Corey Peters (91) at station 24 in Buford on Wednesday. The players made a surprise visit to thank the service men in commemoration of September 11.

BUFORD -- The guys at Station No. 24 are big football fans. Big.

When they're not out risking their lives battling blazes, the crew likes to watch Falcons games or talk about their favorite players.

Imagine their excitement and surprise Wednesday, as team members from the Atlanta Falcons cruised into Station No. 24 in a big van, bearing gifts: autographed footballs and hot pizza. It was an effort by the team to thank service men and women for their hard work and dedication in the wake of Sept. 11.

"This is awesome," said Lt. Brent Dunbar with the Gwinnett County Fire Department. "Anytime we get visitors at the station, it's a big deal, but the Atlanta Falcons? This is something they're going to remember."

Parkview High School graduate and Falcons tight end Michael Palmer was enthusiastic about visiting with the firefighters.

"We get to show our appreciation today for men and women who risk their lives daily," Palmer said. "With yesterday being 9/11, it's a reminder of the tragedy, and we're out here to show these firefighters our respect for them. These guys are heroes."

Palmer was among about a dozen other players including punter Matt Bosher, offensive lineman Joe Hawley and defensive tackles Peria Jerry and Corey Peters.

Peters, who lives in Buford, echoed Palmer's remarks. He said it was an honor to be doing what they were doing Wednesday.

"It's great what these men and women do," Peters said. "They make sacrifices for us. They lay down their lives for the lives of others. They are the true heroes."

When they finished up at Station No. 24, the football players headed to Station No. 27, in Dacula, Station No. 18 in Hoschton, The Gwinnett Fire Academy in Dacula, then back to Buford to visit Station No. 29.

Lt. Eric Eberly with the Gwinnett County Fire Department said the visits were a great boost for firefighters around the county.

"The fact that the Falcons would take a few hours, and come out to see them, that's going to mean a lot for these guys. You've got a lot of fans at these stations. It's really phenomenal, and everybody's excited," Eberly said.