ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard and his Olympic gold medal have been nearly inseparable since the Beijing Games.
And the Orlando Magic center would like another one.
Howard hopes to be on the roster for the 2012 London Games so he can defend his Olympic title and capture his second gold medal.
"I want to be a part of the team," he said Thursday during a visit to his Atlanta alma mater. "I think since we won the Olympics, it's only fair that the team that won it gets a chance to come back and go at it again. We have to keep our title."
He keeps a firm grip on the medal he recently won.
Either his mother has it, or the 6-foot-11 Howard has it in his hands, rubbing it, staring at it.
Howard, a member of the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team, had his prize with him when he returned to his high school's gymnasium for a "Got Milk" ad. He also donated a $5,000 grant to aid the Atlanta Christian Academy's sports program.
A modest crowd of 150 attendees showed up to welcome Howard back to Atlanta. And though it wasn't the thousands who came out in Florida to pay tribute to Howard's Olympic teammate Dwyane Wade or the millions that Michael Phelps will entertain when he hosts "Saturday Night Live" later this month, Howard was still nervous.
"This is big for me, I hope I don't get nervous," Howard said before addressing the crowd. "I don't want people to say, 'Dwight came to the school and he started stuttering.' "
Howard has his gold medal with him almost everywhere he goes. And it shows.
The red neck band attached to the medal is starting to show some wear. As Howard's mom handed the medal to him Thursday, he stared at it for a few seconds, steadily rubbing it with his thumbs.
"It brings out that glow," he said. "It's just tight to say that I represented my country. It's great to know that I'm a part of history."
The trip to his high school was Howard's fifth stop with the medal, already revealing it at two basketball camps, an event for McDonald's and a taping with other Olympians on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which airs on Monday.
Howard said he doesn't anticipate any fatigue factor after playing as much as he has the past year -- NBA regular season, playoffs, training camps and Olympics.
"I'll be ready to go," he said.