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SANDY SPRINGS, GA (CBS ATLANTA) - (6/24/13)
The Atlanta Phoenix Women's Professional Football team invited an ousted 12-year-old girl football player to attend their playoff game on Saturday.
Just a few days earlier, Maddy Paige and her parents told CBS Atlanta News that her football coach informed them that she would not be on the roster because she's a girl. That's how the Atlanta Phoenix heard about Maddy's story.
Last year, she was allowed to play as an defensive tackle for the Strong Rock Christian School Patriots in Locust Grove. While attending Saturday's women's game, Maddy could be seen sporting an Atlanta Phoenix that the team gave to her.
"I never thought I would ever be able to do something like this. Because this is so amazing and epic," Maddy said. General Manger and Co-owner of the Atlanta Phoenix April Christler said she saw herself in Maddy.
"I was 12 years old at one point, wanting to play football, and I was better than a lot of the boys in my neighborhood. And I did the pickup games. My school didn't necessarily say I couldn't play. But just at the time in the 80s, it just wasn't that acceptable," Christler said.
Maddy said she enjoys all the public support, but she is most thankful for her family's support. "I'm glad to see they were able to come. My aunt is here now. And I think they enjoy being back at a ball game," said Maddy.
Christler said she invited Maddy to the game to help lift her spirits. But said the message should be more far-reaching and a lesson for both girls and boys. "The spirit of football is that you may [get] beat down at one play. But you get back up, and you regain your strength and composure, and you come up for the next play," Christler said.
That's something Maddy has already taken to heart, using the experience to strengthen her game. "I'm looking at their plays. And I'm thinking what I would have done the same, [and] what I would have done different. And I'm also looking at ways I can improve to one day do something like this," Maddy said.
The Atlanta Phoenix beat the Miami Fury in the second round of the playoffs to remain undefeated. The game was played at North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs. Maddy's family started a Facebook page titled Let Her Play. It has more than 5,000 likes.
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