Julio Jones speeding on Jet Ski led to bond with wrestling legend Ric Flair

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ATLANTA -- Pro wrestling legend Ric Flair flashed a smile Thursday night when he was asked to recall how he became close to Atlanta Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones.

Flair said he was driving his Formula boat on Lake Lanier two years ago when two guys riding Jet Skis approached, asking if he would like to race one of them.

"He blew by me," Flair said. "And I'm like, 'S---, this guy is a nut.'"

That "nut" Flair encountered was Jones, as he learned after the race.

"I said, 'You're kidding me,'" Flair said. "He came back over, and hence the relationship."

It's funny how Flair and Jones forged their relationship at the same place where Jones made headlines for losing his $150,000 earing.

"He didn't tell me, but I heard about that," Flair said.

Jones extended Flair an open invitation to visit the team. Flair last came out in May, which fired up not only coach Dan Quinn, but the entire team.

"I talk to Julio on a regular basis," Flair said. "I'm such a fan. I honestly have done a lot of stuff with sports teams, but the Falcons treat me with more respect than anything. They are a great bunch of guys. Julio is just unbelievable. So is [Devonta] Freeman. Matt Ryan is a hell of a guy."

Flair appreciated when Jones and fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu wore cleats to honor him.

"That was awesome," Flair said. "That tribute was just awesome."

Flair fell ill in August and spent 10 days in a coma. He was given a 20 percent chance to live because of various health complications but survived.

Flair had a select few hospital visitors because of his condition, but he appreciated Jones sending text messages of encouragement throughout the ordeal.

Jones just wanted to make sure his friend pulled through.

"When you care about and someone is a good friend, that's just stuff you do," Jones said. "There's no thinking behind it. It's not like I'm going out of my way to do something that I wouldn't do. I just appreciate him as a friend and his legacy.

"Ric, I feel like he hasn't changed up for no one. He's been the same since Day 1, since he was in the limelight as a pro wrestler. Even now, just his mentality and who he is: Find who you are and just be that. He's always being him. That's what I admire the most about Ric Flair."

Flair is back to watching football every week now, cheering on Jones and the Falcons.

"He's the best receiver in football," Flair said of Jones. "Anybody who doesn't believe that one, watch the catch he made last week. And the thing about him, too, you know he's going to get double coverage. And Sanu is good. Why the hell are they not moving it? I don't know. You get a 17-point lead and don't score in the second half against Miami?

"These guys, they've got to turn it around. They're a great bunch of guys. ... I'm confident they're going to turn it around this week."