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Brian Dawkins and Sheldon Brown reflect on Dawkins' return against Eagles

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PHILADELPHIA – Sheldon Brown put one of his patented hits on Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall early in the first half and pointed toward the Broncos sideline.

“I knew,’’ Brian Dawkins said. “Sheldon is a brother of mine, and still a great friend. He was doing that as a Dawkinsrespect thing.’’

Brown, the Eagles cornerback, seemed as emotional as Dawkins, maybe more so, talking about the safety’s return to Lincoln Financial Field as a member of the visiting team yesterday.

“Not everybody here played with him, so they all don’t know,’’ Brown began his voice cracking at times. “The guys who did, they know what he is meant to this team.

“He taught me a lot and one of the things he taught me was when you make a hit, punish the guy. You don’t just hit him; you want to punish him, because it will have an affect the rest of the game. I always try to play that way.

“I pointed over to him, just to let him know how much I respect him. He looked back. Of course, he had the shield on, but he nodded at me.’’

Brown is the last Eagle left from a secondary that made a living with punishing hits and big plays.

One by one they left, his mentor at cornerback Troy Vincent, his 2002 draft class mates, Mike Lewis and Lito Sheppard, and now the man he called a “father figure’’ Brian Dawkins.

Brown knows he could be the next one, but until that time comes, he’s going to play the game the way he was taught by those mentors and friends.

“That’s the game,’’ Brown said. “It’s hard some times, but that’s the game.’’

They played a strange game yesterday at the Linc.

Never has a visiting player been cheered the way the 69,144 cheered Dawkins yesterday during the pre-game introductions.

And Dawkins gave them a show with a forward somersault, followed by a backward one and a handstand that the judges gave a 9.8.

It would have been interesting to see what kind of reaction he would have gotten had he done something during the game, like intercept a Donovan McNabb pass, force a Brian Westbrook fumble, or been involved any kind of game-altering play.

For the day he was credited with a game-high eight tackles, missed one on a catch and run by LeSean McCoy and was called for a penalty.

“I think the fans showed you how they feel about him,’’ Brown said.

Dawkins did not come out for the pre-game warm-ups that would have been too emotional.

“He didn’t do that when he was here,’’ Brown said. “If he did it today he would have had to go in for an IV.’’

Dawkins agreed.

“I know how emotional I was and I wanted to have everything I needed to have for my teammates for the game, not for warm-ups,’’ Dawkins said. “I just knew the way I felt, that if I ran out there, I was probably going to be spent by game time.

“I mean it was real, real nerve-wracking. I’ve been in a lot of big games before, but I was trying to control my emotions. It was real tough for this game, and mainly because we needed this game so badly, on top of coming back here at home.’’

Dawkins left the Eagles after 13 years as an unrestricted free agent when the team never offered him a contract, and the Broncos came in the day free agency began and made him a very good offer of two years and $7 million guaranteed.

His return was spoiled when the Eagles, after blowing a 27-10 lead, won 30-27 in the final seconds on a David Akers field goal.

McNabb fought off a terrible second half to complete a 27-yard pass to rookie Jeremy Maclin to set up the winning kick.

McNabb’s offense vs. Dawkins defense, with the game on the line, this time it went to the offense.

“One thing about Dawk is whenever he’s on the field, he’s giving it all he has,’’ McNabb said. “I saw it for 10 years. The Broncos are seeing it now.

“This game is something I’ll tell my twins about and when his twins are old enough I’ll tell them about the time I beat their father.’’

Sheldon Brown will have stories to tell, too.

Brian Dawkins photo from http://espn.go.com/nfl/photos?photoId=353719&gameId=291227021