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The Gospel According to Ray
S.L. PRICE
November 13, 2006
Ray Lewis has a story to tell, of persecution and redemption, of fathers and sons, of pain caused and pain endured. The trials he's suffered--and Lord knows there have been many--are all part of a master plan
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November 13, 2006

The Gospel According To Ray

Ray Lewis has a story to tell, of persecution and redemption, of fathers and sons, of pain caused and pain endured. The trials he's suffered--and Lord knows there have been many--are all part of a master plan

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Yes, there's that word again: crucify. It's no slip. Lewis won't go so far as to call himself the Second Coming, but he's close to believing himself a prophet of sorts, and if martyrdom is the price, so be it. "God has me to do what people are afraid to do: tell the truth," he says. "Yes, racism does exist. Hatred exists every day. I'm not afraid. The worst thing that could happen to me--and I don't see it as the worst--is to be killed and go to heaven."

Delusional? Maybe. There are many who won't take kindly to Ray Lewis, of all people, telling them how to live. After Baltimore's season-opening win at Tampa Bay this season, three of Lewis's sons were standing outside the Ravens' locker room, their dad's name and number on their backs. A woman walked up to their mother and, speaking just above their heads, hissed, "I can't believe you let your kids wear that murderer's jersey."

Five weeks later in Baltimore, it's different. The Ravens have lost a seesaw spectacle with Carolina that left McNair with a concussion. The plan looks shaky for the moment; McNair has struggled, the running game is a mess. Still, Lewis led the defense in tackles again, and now he's in his family suite high above the empty stands. His kids are there, four boys and two girls squirming about his legs. "Let me see your abs!" Lewis commands two of the boys. They lift their jerseys, and he laughs and says, "You got to do your push-ups and sit-ups."

The kids spill into the hall, Lewis bellowing, "Who knows my birthday?"

"May 25th ... no, 15th," says one. "1975!" blurts another.

"Grab your brothers' and sisters' hands now."

The group stops at the elevator, Lewis's mother and sisters and friends bringing up the rear. A Baltimore police officer sidles up; a few hundred fans line the barriers outside, waiting. "Do you want us to walk you out there?" the cop asks Lewis.

He thinks, then says, "No, there'll be lots of people."

On the ground floor Lewis stands inside the main doors of the stadium, gathering the kids around him again. The crowd outside sees him through the glass, and you can hear his name in imploring tones, over and over, the pleas already starting for a signature, a photo. "Come on," he says and pushes; the doors fly open. His head is down. Sinner hits the late afternoon air, plunging forward to greet his flock.

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