Ex-NFL star Ray Lewis to serve as honorary starter for Daytona 500
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis reacts as he is introduced before an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Baltimore, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
The Associated Press
Published Saturday, February 23, 2013 7:50AM EST
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ray Lewis drew plenty of flags during his 17-year NFL career.
On Sunday, he'll get to throw one for a change.
The retired Baltimore Ravens star will serve as honorary starter for the Daytona 500. Lewis will wave the green flag to start the "Great American Race."
Lewis ended his playing career in perfect fashion this month, directing a successful goal-line stand that provided him a second Super Bowl title. A 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker, Lewis announced his retirement Jan. 2.
Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski surely will welcome Lewis.
Lewis called Keselowski on the eve of the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and left him an inspirational voice message. Keselowski also often listens to Lewis' motivational speeches before races.
"What I like about Ray Lewis, and I know he's got a lot of people that don't like him, so I'll acknowledge that," Keselowski said in November. "But what I like about Ray Lewis is that he brings a level of passion that is really unparalleled in his sport, and he's successful because of it. It's kind of this mix of old school, mental prep that just fascinates me.
"So I've read a lot about him and obviously talked about that video and so forth, and I'm just constantly impressed by it. I want to bring that same level of passion, that same level of intensity to NASCAR that he's brought to his respective team in the NFL."
Lewis won't be the only celebrity on hand for Sunday's race. Rappers T.I. and 50 Cent will attend NASCAR's season opener, which has Danica Patrick starting on the pole.
Oscar-nominated actor James Franco will serve as grand marshal and give the command to "start your engines."
The Zac Brown Band will perform a pre-race concert in the Daytona International Speedway infield. Band member Clay Cook will sing the national anthem.