Welcome Back: Packers sign Freeman

It didn't take long for the return of wide receiver Antonio Freeman to go from a good idea to a full-fledged rumor to a signed, sealed and delivered deal.<p> Green Bay signed Freeman, a standout Packer from 1995-2001, Wednesday morning in the wake of a rash of injuries to their top receivers.<p>

The Packers waived Karsten Bailey and linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, a fifth-round draft pick this year to free up spots for Freeman and receiver Chris Jackson on the 53-man roster.

Freeman, 31, was out of football this season. Freeman spent last season in Philadelphia after being released by the Packers June 3, 2002 for salary cap purposes. Freeman had 46 catches for 600 yards and four TDs with the Eagles, but the team chose not to re-sign Freeman for the 2003 campaign.

Now ‘Free' will join the Packers at practice this afternoon, and will be reunited with Packers' quarterback Brett Favre. The duo combined to make the record books as the No. 5 most prolific touchdown connection in NFL history. The ranked just behind the Baltimore Colts' Johnny Unitas-Raymond Berry.

Freeman was originally signed in 1995 as a third-round draft pick out of of Virginia Tech. Selected with the 90th overall pick (Green Bay's fourth in the third round), Freeman was part of a memorable draft class engineered by Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren which also included CB Craig Newsome, DT Darius Holland, FB William Henderson, LB Brian Williams, RB Travis Jervey and OL Adam Timmerman.

Freeman will have a chance to enhance his already impressive Packer numbers. The Baltimore native ranks fifth on the club's career lists in both receptions (417) and yards (6,510) and third in touchdowns (57). Freeman was the Packers' leading receiver four consecutive seasons (1996-99) and also led the team in touchdown receptions for four consecutive years (1997-2000). He tallied three 1,000-yard receiving seasons with a career high 1,424 yards in 1998. His 20 games with 100-yards receiving or more rank fourth in team annals.

The veteran receiver even gets his old number back. Freeman will wear No. 86, which had been worn in the preseason by rookie Carl Ford who is now on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The Packers also signed receiver Chris Jackson. Also a former Packer (he spent the 2002 preseason in Green Bay), Jackson will wear No. 81.

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