NEW YORK -- Plaxico Burress was walking up the stairs in a Manhattan nightclub three years ago when his life changed with a single gunshot.
The wide receiver, now with the New York Jets, recounts that night in November 2008 when he accidentally shot himself and the 20 months he served in prison as a result in an interview for HBO's "Real Sports" that airs Tuesday. It's the first time he has fully detailed the events of the past few years.
"It was dark," recalled Burress, who was then with the Giants. "And I kind of, you know, missed a step. That's when I felt my gun start to slide. I went to grab it to stop it from falling. Pow!"
He didn't realize he had shot himself in the right thigh – until he looked down.
"I had some Chuck Taylors on and they were, the white was all red," Burress said, showing a small scar on his leg. "I said, 'Oh, I'm in trouble.'"
But he didn't realize how much. His wife, Tiffany, is an attorney who told her husband that he was going to end up serving jail time because he was going to be made an example of. Burress vehemently disagreed with her because "I own the gun, it's mine, I bought it. How much trouble can I really be in?"
The interview includes Burress' attorney, Benjamin Brafman, and his new coach, Rex Ryan. Burress, who turned 34 on Friday, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Jets two weeks ago – the start of an NFL comeback that seemed unlikely a few years ago.
Brafman said a bail agreement was worked out for Burress to be released on his own recognizance or $10,000 bail. But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for Burress to be prosecuted to the fullest extent in a press conference. Twenty minutes later, Brafman said, the prosecutor asked for $250,000 bail.
Brafman told Burress there was a problem and relayed Bloomberg's comments.
"You know what I said after that?" Burress said. "I said, 'Who's Mayor Bloomberg?'"
"Come on," says interviewer Bryant Gumbel.
"Dead serious," Burress says.
The wide receiver later asked the grand jury for compassion, but was indicted because, "My name is Plaxico Burress and my career and my life hasn't always been squeaky clean."
Burress was sent to Oneida Correctional Facility in upstate New York, where he "lost count" of how many times he cried while in prison. He worked various jobs such as mopping stairwells and serving meals while he was there.
"To be living in that cell for 16, 17 hours a day, you go from being able to do just about anything that you want to do," Burress said, "to basically putting you in a cage, putting you in a box. It gets your attention."
Burress temporarily lost his NFL career and missed the birth of his daughter.
The former Super Bowl star is currently nursing a sprained left ankle and won't make the trip with the Jets for their preseason opener against the Texans in Houston. The team expects him to practice fully next Wednesday for the first time since he signed, and Burress believes he can be an elite receiver again.
"I just have that confidence and belief in myself that I'm going to go out and play at a high level," he said. "Then everybody is going to go back to scratching their head again: How does he do it? How did he not practice and do it? He's been away for two years. How does he do it?"
Burress also acknowledges that he no longer owns any guns.
"Nah, man," he said. "I just don't want to be around anything negative. I walk around everyday with my head held high. 'Yeah, OK, I'm the guy that shot myself.' People always ask me if I would change that situation. I say, 'Hell yeah. Nobody wants to go to jail.' But, the person that I am and where I'm at at this time, I wouldn't change the person."