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Pittsboro honors hometown hero Jeff Gordon with parade

PITTSBORO, Ind. -- In addition to his racing talent, as displayed by his winning 92 Sprint Cup races, Jeff Gordon is known for having an emotional, sentimental side.

That was on display Thursday in Pittsboro, Indiana, a town with a population of less than 1,000 when he moved there from California at age 14 so he could legally race.

With crowds lining Main Street, Gordon waved to fans during a parade in his honor four days before the Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon won the inaugural Sprint Cup event in 1994 at IMS, just a 20-minute drive from Pittsboro, and has won the race a record five times. The Hendrick Motorsports driver will get one last chance Sunday, as the four-time Sprint Cup champion has announced his retirement from full-time NASCAR racing this year.

"The coolest thing is seeing all these people come out to Pittsboro and driving down the main street and seeing all those people, that blew my mind," said Gordon, who had some of his Pittsboro buddies riding along with him. "To be able to share that with some high school friends of mine, made my day, made their day. It was a great day for Pittsboro.

"It does mean a lot to me. When I am surrounded by people who supported me so much and I start thinking what got me here and how it all happened, I get emotional at things like that."

Gordon delighted the locals -- the town has grown to more than 3,000 -- with a speech after the parade Thursday afternoon. He was presented by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence with a Sagamore of the Wabash award, which is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the governor.

"This to me, today, has been one of the best days of my life," Gordon told the crowd. "I say that sincerely in every way because I get to see what Pittsboro not only meant to me, but what it means to you guys.

"It is an awesome town, and the way you guys came out and supported me and what I've done in the racing and what the Brickyard has meant to me and what this town has meant to me ... this means the world to me. It really does."

Gordon already has a road named for him in the town. Among the other honors and accolades Thursday during Jeff Gordon Day, the 43-year-old Gordon also was presented an official police badge for the city.

"They better rethink this badge," Gordon quipped. "And the friends of mine that are here better rethink some things. How far back can I go on some citizen arrests? Of course, I'd be pulling myself into that as well."