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Checkered past

So Ray Lewis is retiring now, and I wish I could tell you exactly how I feel about that. But there is an ambivalence about him for me -- and not just for me -- that I'll never be able to shake, nor do I really want to.

On the one hand, he is in my book the best linebacker who ever played the game, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a pillar of his community for 17 years. If the theologians are wrong and good works can get a man into heaven, he's got his ticket punched.

Except for one thing, that is.

How many good works does it take to expunge a wrong that's never been made right?

Because on Super Bowl night in 2000, outside a nightclub in Atlanta, a mighty wrong was done, and Ray Lewis was up to his no-neck in it. Two young men were stabbed to death that night in an altercation outside the nightclub, and at least one of the men who had the knives and the blood on them rode away in Lewis' company, and neither Lewis nor anyone else has ever given a satisfactory explanation for what exactly happened.

Lewis, in fact, was initially charged with the murders. Then, as tends to happen when men of stature have lettuce to spread around, he threw lawyers at the problem, got the charges reduced in exchange for testifying against the chief suspects, and skated. So, in the end, did the suspects.

And so two men died and got no justice for it. And Lewis, who lied to police about the events of that night, to this day has never come clean about any of it.

Until he does, he'll always be tainted. A man can make amends for his wrongdoing, and Lewis by all accounts has. But he can never fully outrun it until he turns and confronts it.

Your home truth for today.

Ben Smith's blog.