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Oilers’ George Misses Appearances

October 7, 1997

NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ The Tennessee Oilers’ efforts to attract fans in their temporary home hit another snag Tuesday when one of their most popular players backed out of a series of appearances.

Eddie George, last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, was scheduled to visit a Memphis restaurant, school and hospital, and receive a key to the city from Mayor W.W. Herenton.

A team spokesman said George canceled because of a ``personal matter.″

``Something came up at the last minute, something very personal,″ Rod St. Clair, director of public and community relations, said. ``Sometimes there are things that you have to do. One thing comes before football, and that’s life.″

George spent at least part of Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended the weekly football news conference at his alma mater, Ohio State.

The Oilers (1-4), who moved to Tennessee from Houston last summer, are playing at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis while their stadium is built in Nashville. They attracted the NFL’s smallest crowds during their two home games _ 30,171 on opening day and 17,737 on Sept. 21.

Only about 13,500 tickets have been sold for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals (1-4). The Liberty Bowl seats 62,360.

Trying to boost visibility and ticket sales in Memphis, the Oilers have been sending players and team officials to the city on off days. But even that has fallen flat.

Last month, a late practice caused Anthony Cook and Josh Evans to miss visiting a restaurant and middle school.

In Ohio, George was asked about playing home games in Memphis while practicing 200 miles away in Nashville. He said it was tough.

``I can’t lie about that,″ said George, holding his 6-month-old son, Jaire, and standing in front of a big oil painting of him as a Buckeye in the atrium of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

``It’s a situation we have to deal with. We’ll find out what type of team we are character-wise. Because if we win under these circumstances, we can win under anything.″

St. Clair said George will make each of his previously planned Memphis stops next week.

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