CLEVELAND (AP) — When Kareem Hunt arrived for his first game in nearly a year, an unexpected gift was waiting for him.
Sitting on the top shelf of his locker was a rock. Browns general manager John Dorsey left it and delivered Hunt a message.
"Always stay solid," Hunt said, holding the large stone in his hand. "You've got to be solid as a rock."
Hunt returned to football on Sunday, playing in an NFL game for the first time since he was suspended for eight games by the league following two violent, off-field altercations, one in which he shoved and kicked a woman during an argument.
The 24-year-old Hunt, who was released on Nov. 30 by the Kansas City Chiefs, had 30 yards rushing and 44 yards receiving as Cleveland snapped a four-game losing streak with a 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills.
It was an emotional comeback for Hunt, a Cleveland native who often imagined playing for the Browns as he drove past FirstEnergy Stadium along Lake Erie's south shore.
"It was a dream always driving down 90, seeing the stadium right along the water," he said. "I would be like, 'Wow, that's a big stadium, way bigger than Willoughby South (his high school). I'd love to play in that' and honestly it's a dream come true to be able to play for my hometown and be able to be home."
The Browns took a chance in signing Hunt, who won the league rushing title as a rookie in 2017 before his troubling actions careened his career off course. Dorsey drafted Hunt out of Toledo while he was the Chiefs GM and felt compelled to offer him redemption.
With Hunt on the field, the Browns are better. It's up to him to stay there.
Following his first game since Nov. 19 with Kansas City, Hunt said he felt grateful to be getting back to one of his passions.
"Honestly, there's not enough words to describe how I felt," he said. "It was so emotional. Sometimes I was thankful, sad. A couple of times I thought I was going to shed a few (tears). It felt so good to be back out there. This is what I love to do. I couldn't be happier to be home, too. It felt good. My first real game playing for the Cleveland Browns we got a 'W' so I'm happy."