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Brian Banks signs with Falcons

 
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ATLANTA (AP)

Brian Banks signed with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday after the former Southern Cal recruit's football dream was derailed when he was convicted of rape and kidnapping charges a decade ago.

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The linebacker will participate in Atlanta's offseason workouts with a chance to resume his career. Banks, 27, has been trying to get back into football since he was cleared on May 12, 2012, of a rape conviction.

The Falcons are the first NFL team to sign Banks, but he has had chances with other teams. He took part in the Seattle Seahawks' minicamp last June following workouts with Kansas City and San Diego. He had one tackle in two games with Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League (UFL).

Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Banks also worked out for the Falcons last year.

''We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then,'' 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.''

The Falcons have scheduled a conference call for Wednesday with Banks.

Banks was 16 and had a scholarship offer from USC when a Long Beach Poly high school classmate accused him of the rape. He spent five years in jail and five years on probation.

The woman recanted her claim and offered to help Banks clear his name after he was out of prison. That helped lead to the conviction being overturned by a California court and Banks' record cleared.

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.

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