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NUMBERS DON'T LIE BUT DO CONFUSE

What happens when Pro Bowl participants share a uniform number? All of them wear it.

Times wires

KAPOLEI, Hawaii - Tonight's Pro Bowl has turned into a numbers game.

The AFC features five players who wear No. 24: Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, Jaguars special teamer Montell Owens and Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. That has caused confusion among autograph seekers and photographers.

So who is the real No. 24?

"They're all the real No. 24s on their own team," Mathews said. "On the Chargers, I'm the real No. 24."

Numbers often become a part of a player's brand or identity, especially for superstars. Michael Jordan is 23 even though he also wore 45. Jerry Rice's No. 80 49ers jersey is a classic.

Besides serving as a player's brand, numbers often carry a story behind it and can represent something they've carried since childhood, the number of a player they admired or simply a special number.

Or it could mean nothing.

"It's my first year wearing 24, and I made it to the Pro Bowl," said Joseph, who switched from 22 when he left the Bengals after five seasons and joined the Texans.

"I wouldn't say it's my lucky number, but it's working for me."

Bailey, on the other hand, is making his 11th Pro Bowl and has worn 24 since joining the NFL 13 years ago. Bailey, who wore No. 4 at Georgia, acknowledged having five 24s might create some confusion with fans but not with the coaches or players.

"We all know each other, and we're all going to represent the number real well," he said.

Revis said there are some similarities among the 24s.

"All of us are great at we do, and that's play great football," he said.

While some are selective about their numbers, Owens was willing to take whatever he could get after wearing No. 33 at Division I-AA Maine.

"For me, (24) wasn't even the number I selected at Jacksonville. It was given to me," he said. "I was a guy who came out undrafted.

"And so when you come out undrafted, you better take any number they give you."

For the NFC, there are only two 24s, Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson and Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. But there are four 21s: 49ers running back Frank Gore, Bears cornerback Corey Graham, Cardinals cornerback/punt returner Patrick Peterson and Packers cornerback Charles Woodson.

"But there's an elder statesman 21," Woodson said, "and that would be me."

Fast facts

Pro Bowl

When: 7 tonight

Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu

TV: Ch. 8

Bucs representative: Guard Davin Joseph

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