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Muhsin Muhammad, Julius Peppers prepare for Hall of Honor ceremony

Muhsin Muhammad, Julius Peppers

CHARLOTTE — Muhsin Muhammad was fighting back tears before he even took the stage.

And Julius Peppers was dreaming about a day when he might see his name honored in a stadium, long before it will be this afternoon.

The two newest members of the Panthers Hall of Honor were presented with their blue blazers and celebrated at a dinner Saturday night, surrounded by their family and peers in the Hall.

Muhammad, the legendary receiver who finished his career in the league's all-time top 35 in both yards and receptions, took a second to get into his speech as he was moved by a videotaped message from his son Muhsin III and then talked about his adopted children.

"I'm going to hold it together," he said as he gripped the podium.

He did just that, recalling his career in which he was pushed, figuratively and literally, by the people in the room with him Saturday.

Sometimes, that was being chased by Peppers during post-practice wind sprints, which he did with the receivers ("It's almost scary to see a human being that's 300 pounds breathing down your neck," Muhammad said), to the push-pull with fellow wide receiver Steve Smith, that lifted both to new heights in their respective careers.

There was laughter among the emotions as well. Muhammad joked that when he had his best statistical season when Smith was injured, he answered a call from an unknown number, only to have former tight end Wesley Walls say, "Don't you break my touchdown record." (Muhammad did not comply, surpassing Walls' 12 from 1999 with 16 in 2004.)

And quarterback Jake Delhomme talked about the 2003 playoff game against Dallas, when a run play call came in on third-and-10 that he didn't care for, and Muhammad urged him to change the play in the huddle. After Delhomme reluctantly handed it off to Stephen Davis, who took it for a 23-yard touchdown, Muhammad came up to him, celebrating, saying: "I told you not to change that play."

Muhammad also recalled his offseason work, in which he'd catch passes in the visiting locker room, fired from the Jugs machine by equipment manager Don Toner. Smith, who learned many things from the veteran receiver in his early years, then began to tag along and adopt the practice himself. And as it happened so often in their careers, they motivated each other and made each other better, as Muhammad would arrive at the stadium, look for Toner, only to learn Smith was ahead of him that day.

"It became a competition," Muhammad said.

When it was his turn to take the stage, the famously taciturn Peppers joked, "I don't talk as much as Moose; I promise this will be shorter."

But the all-time pass-rusher — who's fourth on the NFL's sack list and was named to two All-Decade teams — took his time to remember his beginnings here and the place he holds in team lore.

"I was there for the 'Keep Pounding' speech," he said, gesturing toward Melanie Mills and the family of the late Sam Mills. "I was like a bridge for this organization, from the old to the current." He mentioned his "reconciliation" with former owner Jerry Richardson after they "butted heads" about Peppers' 2010 departure for Chicago. But he also spoke of the coming home in 2017, when he paired with a new generation of stars.

"I was happy to finish here, where I should have been the whole time," Peppers added.

But for all the on-field accomplishments they had, which were many, they were also hailed for their character.

Panthers owner David Tepper said he began to realize the kind of person Muhammad was when he returned to the stadium for an event honoring not another former player but longtime team security guard/ambassador John Coleman. And Tepper recalled the way Peppers helped ease his nerves before the first game in 2018 after the Panthers signed safety Eric Reid (who was controversial in some circles for his decision to kneel during the national anthem). As Tepper paced the locker room before the game, Peppers caught his eye and said, "It's just going to be all right."

See Mushin Muhammad and Julius Peppers get their Hall of Honor jackets and meet with current Panthers players.

The two newest members of the Hall were presented with their new blue blazers, and they'll be back at halftime of today's game to see their names unveiled at the top of Bank of America Stadium.

It's a fitting tribute for a pair of Panthers legends, and a day Peppers admitted to thinking about through his playing days.

"I remember as a player going around to the different stadiums, looking up around the bowl, seeing if I recognize any of the names — daydreaming about one day seeing my name up there," he said. "To actually have that happen, it's a surreal feeling, and it's a dream come true."

Now he's just hours away from that dream being realized and from joining Muhammad in being celebrated by the fans who cheered them through two separate stints, with the coming home making their shared stories that much sweeter.

The newest members of the Panthers Hall of Honor, Muhsin Muhammad and Julius Peppers, were honored at a dinner Saturday night and presented with their new blue blazers.