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Museum honors professional athletes from Starkville

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 10/20/2013 11:44 pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA) - The Magnolia State has had many athletes make it to the pros, including big names like Brett Favre and the Manning family.

A local Starkville museum honored three athletes who once lived in Starkville on Sunday.

One of the athletes scored over 17,000 points in basketball career.

"I look back with great fondness in the years I played," said former NBA Basketball player Bailey Howell.

Another player had over 22,000 receiving yards in his professional football career.

"He'd run through everybody without them touching him," said a friend of former NFL Football player Jerry Rice.

The last athlete honored at the exhibit was the first African American inaugurated into the baseball hall of fame.

"I think he would be thrilled because so much has changed since he grew up here in Starkville," said cousin of deceased baseball player "Cool Papa" Bell.

All three athletes have on thing in common - they all once lived in Starkville.

"For a town this size, I think it's unique," said museum board member Jerry Drott.

"The fact that we have these three outstanding athletes is something our town and county should be proud of," said museum volunteer Joan Wilson.

Organizers said because all three players are members of the National Pro Sports Hall of Fame, it was an easy decision to create an exhibit in their honor.

"It's very unusual for a town this size to have three athletes from the sports hall of fame," Wilson said.

Descendants of "Cool Papa" Bell and the mother and sister of Jerry Rice were in attendance.

Howell, who now resides in Starkville, was also present to meet fans.

"It's just a very special honor," Howell said.

Howell started playing professionally in 1959 and ended his career in 1971 with the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Playing professionally, you could say, was fairyland," Howell explained. "It wasn't like the real world."

Forty-two years after leaving the league, Howell said he thinks he's laid down the basketball for good.

"That's not a game for a person my age," Howell joked. "It hasn't been for a long, long time."

Museum board members said it's vital to honor influential people who represent the state and region

"It's important to recognize these people in our community," Drott said. "They're role models for our children."

The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum is operated solely by volunteers and features various exhibits throughout the year.

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