The Answer, otherwise known as A.I., also known as Allen Iverson, made his not so triumphant return to the Philadelphia 76ers last night.  Iverson’s former team, the Denver Nuggets, were the opponents and the victors last night in Philly, topping the 76ers 93-83.  This was the 10th straight loss for the Sixers and Iverson’s first game in over a month after he left the Memphis Grizzlies three games into the season.  So what was the big deal? And why was everybody in Philadelphia smiling last night?

It was a part of us that had been lost was returned, for the most part intact. Sure, he isn’t as quick or dynamic as he used to be eight or so years ago.  But nobody is. He is not the player that he used to be, and due to the rust from the 30-plus day layoff since he was with the Grizzlies, he probably isn’t even the player that he’s going to be later in the year. He scored only 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting.  He had six assists and five rebounds, not exactly a stellar night at the office.

But the good news was that Sixers team that had failed to capture the imagination of Philadelphia despite two consecutive playoff appearances was relevant again in the City of Brotherly Love.  There was a palpable excitement in the city surrounding the 76ers that had not been around ever since Iverson left and returned the first time as a member of the Nuggets.  Iverson went to center court and kissed the 76ers logo while wearing the Nuggets jersey two years ago, and he did the same last night. The Sixers had been averaging only 11,000 fans per game on the season leading into last night, but  The Wachovia Center was sold out for the first time all season yesterday, as more than 20,000 fans came out to welcome Iverson back. Yes, the Sixers lost.  But something just felt right last night.  Philly was whole again as a basketball town.  And was all because of A.I. We missed you, baby.  Welcome home.