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Olympic Torch Heads for Metro Atlanta Today

July 17, 1996

FRANKLIN, Ga. (AP) _ The Olympic Torch headed toward metro Atlanta today after stopping along the Trail of Tears.

The relay began in Franklin this morning and arrives early Thursday in Stone Mountain, just east of Atlanta. It will enter the Atlanta city limits Thursday night.

Scheduled stops today included Newnan, Fayetteville, Jonesboro and McDonough.

Leaders from three Cherokee tribes praised the relay as a symbol of peace when the run stopped in New Echota, the former capital of the Cherokee Nation.

About 15,000 Cherokee who lived in north Georgia and parts of Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina were forced from their homes 158 years ago by federal and state troops. Their 800-mile trek to a new reservation in Oklahoma is now known as the Trail of Tears.

``As many of you know, fire is sacred to the Cherokee,″ said Joyce Dugan, principal chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. ``It seems only fitting that a flame that means peace and has been all over the world should make its way to the Cherokee homelands.″

Earlier Tuesday, the torch was carried down an 18-inch-wide stretch of red carpet into downtown Dalton _ the heart of America’s carpet industry.

Carl Bouckaert, chief executive officer of carpetmaker Beaulieu of America, lit the city’s Olympic caldron before a crowd of 3,000 at a downtown park.

Not all came away from the torch run happy. Torchbearer Jim Carver wanted to top off his relay uniform with a hat emblazoned with ``Team Jesus, Go for the Gold,″ but Olympic organizers ordered him to take it off or hit the road.

``They were very forceful about me not being able to wear the hat,″ said Carver, who carried the torch in Hiawassee on Monday. He ran in place of his wife, who died of cancer three days after learning she was to carry the Olympic flame.

Olympic organizers refused to allow Carver, who lives in Clayton, on the bus that would take him to the start of his leg of the relay as long as he wore the hat, he said. He ended up handing it to his son to wear.

Torchbearers are given a standard uniform of a T-shirt, shorts and socks to wear during the relay and are allowed to wear their own shoes, relay spokesman David Emanuel said Tuesday. Other items of clothing are prohibited.

``We are trying ot avoid people using their opportunity as a torchbearer to make some kind of political or corporate or religious statement,″ Emanuel said. ``We felt the greatest benefit that these people could exhibit would be to represent their family, friends and community.″

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