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Welcome back, No. 7: Vick runs, throws for TD

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PAUL NEWBERRY | December 6, 2009 04:15 PM EST | AP

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ATLANTA — Michael Vick took the snap, sprinted to his right, made a quick cut to the left, broke a tackle and dove into the end zone.

He wasn't done, either.

Turns out, No. 7 still rules Atlanta.

Making quite a return to the Georgia Dome, Vick accounted for a pair of touchdowns – one running, the other passing – and basked in the cheers of his former home as the Philadelphia Eagles thoroughly dominated the short-handed Atlanta Falcons 34-7 on Sunday.

The Eagles (8-4) pulled two games ahead of the reeling Falcons (6-6) in the NFC wild-card standings, bringing a little more clarity to the playoff race. But most of the attention was on Vick's first game in Atlanta since he went off to prison for dogfighting.

Vick, a three-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons and one of the NFL's most dynamic players before his stunning downfall, ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the third quarter, his first score since Oct. 15, 2006. With the game out of hand, he slipped a 5-yard scoring pass to Brent Celek early in the fourth, his first TD throw since that final season with the Falcons.

By then, all the fans who had showered Vick with boos when he came in for a couple of snaps on Philadelphia's opening possession had long since gone. Those who were left – many of them wearing No. 7 jerseys – were chanting "We want Vick! We want Vick!"

Deciding that two touchdowns was enough, Philadelphia coach Andy Reid let third-string quarterback Kevin Kolb finish out of the game, much to the chagrin of those fans who hoped the ex-Falcon would get even more playing time.

Still, the day was everything – and then some – that Vick could've hoped for. He played sparingly in his first nine games with the Eagles, but coming back to the city that once hailed him as its biggest star finally gave him a chance to shine.

Vick went 2-for-2 passing, setting up his touchdown throw with a 43-yard completion to Reggie Brown, and ran four times for 17 yards.

The Falcons sure could've used their former quarterback.

Five offensive starters, including quarterback Matt Ryan, were sidelined by injuries. That was simply too much to overcome, even with the Eagles missing a couple of key offensive players, running back Brian Westbrook and receiver DeSean Jackson.

Atlanta scored on the final play to avoid a shutout.

Before the game, Vick chatted with Falcons owner Arthur Blank and several former teammates, including receiver Roddy White. When it was time to get down to business, No. 7 led the Eagles out of the tunnel, served as one of the captains for the coin toss and got a chance to take a couple of snaps on Philadelphia's very first drive.

After that, all he did was watch – until the Eagles faced third-and-1 at the Atlanta 5 on the opening drive of the third quarter and leading 13-0 in a game they had dominated. Trotting on the field to those familiar boos, Vick lined up in a shotgun and pulled off the sort of play that was so familiar when he played for the home team.

Spotting the hole and taking off, Vick darted into the end zone for a touchdown that looked as though it lifted a huge weight off his shoulders. With the boos now drowned out by thunderous cheers, Vick hopped off the turf, pulled away from his teammates and headed toward the stands.

He tried to flip the ball into the crowd, but was thwarted by the net being raised for the extra point. The ball deflected back into the hands of fullback Leonard Weaver, who turned toward Vick, apparently to ask if he wanted to keep it.

Already heading toward the Eagles bench, Vick just pointed toward the stands. Weaver managed to get it to a fan on the second try.

Vick did keep the ball after his TD pass. And when it was done, he lingered on the field for interviews, then trotted off with both arms raised before blowing kisses in all directions.

Chris Redman, filling in for Ryan, had a miserable game after leading the Falcons to a last-second win the week before. Redman was picked off twice, one of them returned 83 yards for a touchdown by Sheldon Brown.