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Vanderjagt returns to Canada following nine-year NFL career

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario -- Mike Vanderjagt's kicking career has come full circle.

The former Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys player who was the most accurate in NFL history and was once called an "idiot kicker" by Peyton Manning for comments he made on Canadian TV took part in the first Toronto Argonauts practice of the season Sunday.

The day before, he signed with the team that helped propel him to stardom in 1996. More than a decade after leaving the Argos for the fame and fortune of the NFL, Vanderjagt was thrilled to be back.

"Toronto was the front-runner, regardless of what NFL team called," said Vanderjagt, who won back-to-back Grey Cup championships in his only two full CFL seasons. "I really wanted to come to Toronto, more than anything else."

Vanderjagt wasn't ready to leave the sport despite an ignominious departure from the NFL in November 2006. He was cut from the Dallas Cowboys after missing a pair of field goals against the Colts.

"When you fish and golf enough and you're only 38 years old and you feel you can still do it," Vanderjagt said. "I miss the area and I miss my family and friends. It became a good opportunity, assuming Toronto wanted me, to be able to kick for a few more years."

Vanderjagt led the NFL in scoring in 1999 and kicked 42 consecutive field goals in 2003-04, the longest streak in league history. Vanderjagt made 86.5 per cent of his field goals -- tops in the NFL among kickers with at least 100 attempts -- and made the Pro Bowl in 2004.

Vanderjagt also lashed out at head coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning following a 41-0 playoff loss to the New York Jets in 2002.

Manning fired back at Vanderjagt, calling him "our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off a lot."

After spending the 2007 season on the sidelines, Vanderjagt recently worked out with the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Years ago if you were to say 'you had nine great years in the NFL and you're the most accurate kicker,' I would take that in a heartbeat," said Vanderjagt. "Certainly I feel like I can kick in the NFL, but I am in no means using Toronto as a stepping stone there.

"From an NFL standpoint, sure, I wish I was there. But from a life standpoint, I feel this is the place I should be."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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