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Original Issue

Same Time Last Year

RICHARD ALSTON/ Browns Wide Receiver


YOU MIGHT say Browns kick returner Richard Alston--who averages 23.8 yards per kickoff return and broke off a 93-yard TD romp against the Ravens on Nov. 7 (left)--has one good set of wheels. But last season he had about a hundred good sets--and no connection to football. After being cut by the Browns in August 2003, Alston picked up the paper and looked for a job. An ad for a salesman at a used-car dealership near Alston's brother's house in Zebulon, N.C., piqued Alston's interest, and the East Carolina alum was quickly hired. He proved a natural, selling about 15 cars a week, but he wasn't long for the lot. Last March the Browns offered him a spot in NFL Europe with the Berlin Thunder. Alston helped the Thunder win the league title with 481 receiving yards and six TDs, and when he was invited back to Browns camp this year, the 5'11" 215-pounder survived the cuts, leaving him to think back fondly on his automotive career. "I met so many interesting people," he says. "I would use football as an icebreaker, and before you knew it, we would be chatting like old friends and I would sell them a car. It was a win-win situation." --Lisa Altobelli