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Brian Banks, exonerated Long Beach rape convict, signs with Atlanta Falcons

Brian Banks posted this picture of himself on Facebook signing papers to join the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday, April 3, 2013. (Facebook/The Brian Banks Story)

April 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Long Beach man exonerated of a rape charge and prison sentence that derailed his promising professional football career has signed with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, the team announced Wednesday.

Brian Banks, 27, served five years of a rape and kidnapping conviction in prison and five years' probation after a Long Beach Polytechnic High School classmate accused him of rape. Banks was a top national high-school football recruit at the time and had been offered a scholarship to USC. He was subsequently registered as a sex offender for life.

His accuser later recanted her claim. The California Innocence Project brought Banks' case before the original trial judge and he was exonerated of all charges on May 24, 2012.

Banks, standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 250 pounds, has practiced with several professional teams since May 2012, including the Seattle Seahawks, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers, as well as the Falcons. He played professionally for two games with the now-defunct United Football League for the Las Vegas Locomotives.

"We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then," Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement released by the team. "He has worked extremely hard for this chance over the last year and he has shown us that he is prepared for this opportunity. We are happy that Brian will have a chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL and we look forward to seeing him on the field."

Banks has become a spokesman for the California Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongly accused.

He is expected to attend when the Falcons hold their first offseason workout on April 22.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.