CHICAGO (AP) _ No matter how many times Michael Jordan said this was just like any other game, his watery eyes and reaction to the fans' thunderous ovation on Saturday revealed just how much it meant to come home.
``I almost feel guilty playing against them,'' Jordan said after the game, in which the Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 77-69.
As the announcer introduced Jordan for the first time as a visiting player in Chicago, the sellout crowd clapped and screamed in a three-minute ovation.
His eyes filled with tears, Jordan waved at the fans who have cheered him throughout the six titles he won with the Chicago Bulls. One fan carried a sign reading simply, ``Thanks, Mike.''
Taylor DeRosa, an 11-year-old from St. Louis, was dressed in a Jordan Wizards jersey and carried a sign that read, ``Mr. Jordan, my X-mas present was to see you play!''
The cheers continued during Jordan's early moves. When he made his first basket, a 15-foot jumper over Kevin Ollie with 7:38 left in the first quarter, the fans yelled as if it was the game-winner. But as play continued, the biggest cheers were reserved for the home team.
Jordan's performance overall was dismal. He had a career-high nine turnovers, and was just 7-of-21 from the floor for 16 points. But he also had 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.
``It wasn't a pretty game,'' Jordan said. ``Both teams were pretty much hyped, wanted to play well. A lot had been made of the game.''
When it was all over, Jordan headed to the Bulls bench to say hello to old friend Charles Oakley, and was given another loud ovation as he entered the tunnel.
It's been 3 1/2 years since Jordan walked away after the Bulls won their sixth NBA championship. But as he stood in the blue-and-black of the Wizards, it appeared fans had forgiven his defection. It was only the second sellout this season at the United Center.