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Aug. 22, 1969: O.J. Simpson's debut with the Bills

It isn't commemorating O.J. Simpson to remember the excitement this city felt and the love heaped on him as he appeared to effortlessly glide across the gridiron in Buffalo, which he did for the first time 45 years ago today.

While many who fondly remember one of football’s greatest running backs think sadly of the heights of his career, there are many who only know Simpson as an accused killer and a convicted thief. To understand the complex human tragedy that is the life of Orenthal James Simpson, however, one must understand the heights to see how far he has fallen.

Police protected Simpson from mobbing, admiring fans as he arrived in Buffalo for the first time after a protracted contract squabble with Bills owner Ralph Wilson. WBEN-TV devoted a special program to “getting to know O.J.” And the team sold out War Memorial Stadium for a preseason exhibition game, a feat never accomplished before or after Simpson’s first game in Buffalo in 1969.

Simpson’s debut may have been as exciting a sports event as had ever been in Buffalo up until that point.

[See photos from O.J. Simpson during his Buffalo years]

Forty-five years ago, Simpson was the King of Buffalo, but it was 20 years ago this summer that a low-speed chase down a California freeway ended hope for those who tried to hold on to Simpson as hero.

The O.J. Simpson interview: On prison, 'retirement' and football