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Confused TV viewers see Reeve walking

Paralyzed people fooled by a Super Bowl ad showing Christopher Reeve walking have been calling an advocacy group to find out how he was cured, the group's leader said today.

"Since Sunday, we've received a number of phone calls from persons who are paralyzed or their parents or relatives, saying, "What research institute did Mr. Reeve go to in order to receive his cure?' " said Thomas Countee Jr., executive director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.

Other advocates and researchers said they found the computerized image thrilling but also worrisome because it could raise false hopes about a quick cure.

In the ad for Nuveen Investments, the Superman actor, who was paralyzed in a fall from a horse in 1995, appears to be among those gathering in an auditorium of the future to present an award for research that supposedly cured spinal cord injury.

He gets up from a chair, walks stiffly to the stage and stands with other beneficiaries of the research.

"When you go out with an advertisement like that you tread a very, very narrow line between trying to be creative . . . and being misleading," Countee said from association headquarters in Silver Spring, Md. "I think it could be interpreted as misleading and raising false hopes. But on the other hand, the controversy brings more attention to the issue of spinal cord injury."

Though no date is given for the gathering in the commercial, it is sometime after 2006. An announcer says breakthroughs have been made by then against cancer and AIDS.

Reeve, 47, has been vowing to walk almost since his accident. He acknowledged Monday that he has been criticized for his unceasing optimism.

In a statement issued through Nuveen, Reeve insisted that the scene in the commercial is "something that can actually happen. Most scientists agree that with enough money and talent focused on spinal cord repair, the goal of walking within the foreseeable future is a very real possibility."

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