When the Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI Sunday (Feb. 5), a familiar face will be in the building. Michael Vick may not be playing quarterback, but will be cheering on the team who once upon a time drafted him first pick overall, back in 2001. The 36-year-old did not play in the NFL this season, and knows it could be time to turn the page onto the next chapter of his life. Today (Feb. 1), Vick had the opportunity to do something that was long overdue: pen a heartfelt letter to the citizens of a city he once carried, the good people of Atlanta, Georgia.

The all-time rushing yards leader as a quarterback played a crucial role in the culture that has been developed for the current Super Bowl-bound Falcon team. Vick spoke on a number of topics concerning himself, and his connection to the city of Atlanta. One major part of his life many fans may not know was how the night of April 26, 2008 changed him. It was rock bottom, the day he lost Atlanta.

I know sometimes people will say it’s like they’ve been “punched in the stomach” when something bad happens … but I’d never really understood the expression, until that moment. Matt Ryan.

I just kept repeating his name, in my head, again and again. Every time I thought about what it meant, it took the air right out of me — but I couldn’t help it. Matt Ryan. As in, the quarterback. Before that moment, I didn’t have much. I didn’t have my money … or my reputation … or, worst of all, my freedom.

But I did have one thing. I had those five words: Mike Vick, quarterback, Atlanta Falcons. And once I heard, Matt Ryan, well … I didn’t have that either. After that, I knew that everything had changed. I knew there was no going back — not to start for Atlanta, not to play for Atlanta, not even to live in Atlanta. Matt Ryan. After that, I knew it was over.

Vick went on to write about how much it meant for him to come home to Atlanta, and be honored at halftime of the final game at the Georgia Dome last month. After everything that he's been through in the past decade, Vick cherished that moment like nothing else. It all finally came full circle.

The lights were so bright — and I just let them wash over me. If I had gone blind, in that moment, then that would have been O.K.The cheers were so loud — and I just let them pour into my ears.

If I had gone deaf, in that moment, then that also would have been O.K.And as we made our way further and further onto the field, it just got brighter, and brighter, and louder, and louder.

I didn’t actually want to die, right then, in front of 70,000 people — but it was one of those moments where you’re thinking, You know what? I could die right here … and that would be O.K., too. It was perfect.

Check out the rest of the must-read letter where Vick expands on his relationship with Matt Ryan, Madden 2005, and much more here. Just make sure there's some kleenex nearby.