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SASS AND SUBSTANCE // Rison finds right route with Pack

What he swears by today Andre Rison may refute tomorrow. That's his past, but Green Bay's stability/success has become Rison's present. A gifted, powerful, mercurial athlete, Bad Moon keeps changing phases.

He bombed in Cleveland, fizzled in Jacksonville, twice being fired for running undisciplined pass routes, but Rison became a November beneficiary of temporary Packers desperation at wide receiver.

"I'm in love with Green Bay," began Rison's sermon at the Super Bowl XXXI altar. "I want to retire in green and gold. Sterling Sharpe's old No. 84 jersey is mine now. My journey has suddenly become beautiful."

Say what?

Not many months ago, Rison was similarly effusive upon crash-landing in Jacksonville, expounding on a fresh beginning with the neophyte Jaguars. "I had to lie to you," he now admits. "God had a plan. There would be a higher calling."

Oh my heaven.

I'm not sure Andre knows what's truth, what's bogus and what's fantasy as a 29-year-old multimillionaire strutting around New Orleans wearing beyond-Deion jewelry, including a bracelet with double-row diamonds, a diamond-encrusted cross dangling from a gold chain, a diamond in an ear lobe, two diamond rings, and a $100,000 diamond-overloaded Rolex wristwatch.

"I knew some reporter would note my jewels," he said, stroking the Rolex. "Knowing I'd be interviewed, I really didn't want to wear the stuff. But frankly, I was afraid to leave all this in the locker room.

"Whatever anybody brings up, nobody can take this moment from me," Rison continued. "I got a call from Deion Sanders, who said he knows the feeling of escaping from Atlanta and getting to The Show."

That's where NFL life began for Rison, catching loads of passes for the lukewarm Falcons and being elected to three Pro Bowls. Atlanta also is where his rap sheet took form.

"I had a couple of run-ins," he admitted. "I've been used as a scapegoat." There was an argument outside of a nightclub. Rison wound up waving a pistol. Gun went off, but nothing was hit but a Kroger's grocery store down the street.

Paper or plastic?

Bad Moon had a $900,000 home at the Country Club of the South, a gated enclave of modern palaces north of Atlanta. But one turbulent night, Rison's girlfriend, rap recording star Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, got so angry at him that she burned down the place.

They're now married.

Rison became a free agent and left the Falcons for a $17.6-million deal in Cleveland. "My production went down with the Browns because, for some reason, they wouldn't throw me the football."

After the Browns became the Baltimore Ravens, they fired Rison. On his pre-Packers jobs, Andre was criticized for ignoring playbooks and running freelance patterns. "People claim I run bad routes," he said, "but I use my ability to get open any way I can, then I seldom drop passes. Isn't that the idea?"

Jacksonville offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride blamed wishy-washy Rison routes for 10 of quarterback Mark Brunell's 18 interceptions before Bad Moon's departure. The Packers had lost two starting wideouts and quickly signed Rison. Upon arriving in Green Bay, he said Gilbride "can kiss my a--. I ain't heard his name being up for any head coaching jobs. I also have no love for Brunell."

Since then, Gilbride has been hired as San Diego's head coach. Rison's script is now altered. "He impressed me," Bad Moon said in New Orleans. "A great offensive mind."

Say what?

Rison was asked to compare the celebrated, youthful Brunell with Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre. "My only comment," said Andre, "is that I'm now catching touchdown passes from the MVP." In seven games with the Packers, he has 18 receptions for 201 yards and two TDs.

"Andre has never been in a passing game as structured as ours," Favre said. "In Atlanta, the run-and-shoot offense was more like: "Hey, Andre, run out and get open.' With us, he runs 15-yard comebacks and nice, crisp 10-yard hook patterns. Andre has been doing it well. Maybe life really has finally changed for him."

Rison may well be a factor in the Super Bowl. His football talents are unquestioned. Maybe this time Bad Moon's sky is bluer. Perhaps influences of Reggie White, Favre, Keith Jackson and other Green Bay principals have harnessed an NFL enigma.

Then again . . .

Rison was asked how he has changed as a person during the bittersweet Atlanta-Cleveland-Baltimore-Jacksonville experience that led to a Super Bowl opportunity with the Packers.

"I've not changed at all," he swore. "I've always been one of the nicest, humblest people in the world. Those are qualities that get lost when you are being classified as a loser."

Say what?