Free as a bird

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth, who in 2001 was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder of his pregnant girlfriend, was released just after 8 a.m. ET Monday from the Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina.

Carruth did not speak to reporters on as he left the prison wearing a knit cap and an unzipped jacket on a chilly morning with temperatures in the high 30s.

 There was a smattering of applause as Carruth got into a white SUV and was whisked away from the prison.

He will be a on a nine-month post-release program, according to North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesman Jerry Higgins. 

Carruth would need special permission from a case officer to leave the state or the country during that span, but is free to go wherever he pleases after nine months.

Carruth, Carolina's first pick of the 1997 draft (No. 27 overall), was the first active NFL player at the time to be charged and convicted with such a crime.

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