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Mention the Falcons to Martin, and he gives a smile that says, "No comment."This much he will say: He hopes to be installed as an owner by next season, saying, "I really believe it's going to happen."That the product of a Pittsburgh ghetto has the resources to pursue a professional team is American dream kind of stuff.The man who once played with a bill in his sock - a good-luck gift from his slain grandmother - is prepared to invest mega millions for a football team.Every couple of weeks, he'll take a seven-day business trip, going from New York to Dallas to Miami (where he owns a vacation home) to Atlanta. Martin won't say, but one can assume he's meeting with money men, perhaps potential investors or banks or both.A few months ago, he was spotted at an Atlanta steakhouse with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, fueling speculation.Martin calls it "a story of hope," a story that already has drawn feelers from Hollywood. The good part of the story, he says, still hasn't played out.It was fun and intense, but he always was prepared for it to end."I've always seen football as a way for me to impact other people's lives," he says, relaxing last week at his tony townhouse in Garden City, L. Next Sunday, Martin will be honored by the Jets at halftime of their game against the Steelers, a triumphant but momentary return to his old world.Even though his locker remains intact at Weeb Ewbank Hall, where he visits every week or two, he has flushed football from his system. On to the Duane Reade pharmacy on Broad Street in lower Manhattan. Even then, he knew he wanted to be an NFL owner, a dream he didn't reveal until the day he retired.
After 14,101 rushing yards and 100 touchdowns in 11 seasons with the Patriots and Jets, Gang Green's greatest player since Joe Namath has moved on. Martin was only 26 when the Leon Hess estate announced in 1999 that it was selling the franchise. He talks more enthusiastically about potential ownership than he does about his accomplishments on the field."It's something I'm very serious about," Martin says.
"Other than playing football and my charity work, I haven't focused on anything like I'm focused on this."He won't say which team he's targeting - it's not the Jets - but he's investing an inordinate amount of time and money into it.
He's up at dawn, eating a blueberry muffin and whipping up a fruit smoothie in his blender - mango, bananas, strawberries, dates and orange juice. Many ex-jocks struggle in the afterlife, unable to cope when the cheers turn to echoes and when their structured lives become one long recess period.
Martin seems happy to be done with football, and that's not a knock against his dedication to the game.
He played with an uncommon, almost creepy focus, but he was an atypical star.
This is someone who used to walk around the locker room at the end of the day, collecting used towels for the hamper. He enjoyed football, and someday he will walk among the game's immortals, but he treated it like a summer fling, not a forever relationship.