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Billy Payne’s Wife Carries Torch

July 12, 1996

MOULTRIE, Ga. (AP) _ The wife of Olympic organizer Billy Payne carried the torch past her parents’ home Thursday, stopping long enough to kiss her mother and husband as the flame made its way through Georgia.

``The entrance was wonderful,″ said Martha Payne, who entered through a pathway lined by members of her Moultrie High School senior class of 1965. ``The crowd on the square was fantastic.″

Paul Hogan, captain of the 1995 Valdosta High School football team, carried the torch on a leg of the relay that was to have been run by Valdosta coach Nick Hyder, who died May 16.

Hyder made the school a national power with a 302-48-5 record during his career.

``To say it’s an honor is not enough,″ said Hogan, who was joined by Hyder’s widow for the first part of the leg. ``The amount of people that came out for the run is more than I can say. Mrs. Hyder was pleased and Coach Hyder would have been delighted with the turnout.″

The crowd filled sidewalks and overflowed into the street for Hogan’s portion of the run. As the torch passed, spectators released red, white and blue balloons, forming a rising wave of color flowing into the sky.

The torch stopped at City Hall and spent the night in Albany. The flame is making a circuitous trip through Georgia on its way to the opening ceremonies in Atlanta July 19.

Earlier in Tifton, a crowd of about 5,000 cheered the torch.

``It gave me chills. ... This is as close as we’ll ever get (to the Olympics),″ said Sandy Hudgins of nearby Brookfield, who was holding her 3-month-old baby.

At least one runner wasn’t sprinting.

``It was just a great experience to be able to do this,″ said Nancy Mark, a softball and soccer coach at Tifton High School. ``I tried to go slow and save the moment.″