By now people know the new lyrics to the Eagles' fight song:

"Die, Fido, die . . ."

Or they've read other updated versions. Sarcastic verses are popping up on the Internet. And those are among the milder responses to the home team's signing of perhaps the most vilified athlete in pro football, Michael Vick.

"Now he represents Philadelphia. It's disgusting," said Jackie Cioci, 18, who joined a protest yesterday outside the NovaCare Complex, where Vick was speaking to reporters.

But for every fan like Cioci, there was another who said Vick had paid the penalty and served his time - and more, that he could help the Eagles win.

"That was the best move the Eagles ever made, one of the best," said Leroy Emerson of North Philadelphia.

The news that began to trickle out Thursday night, as the Eagles were losing an exhibition game to the New England Patriots at Lincoln Financial Field, had by yesterday become the talk of the town, even if no one could quite believe it at first.

Michael Vick, the dog-killer? An Eagle?

The signing of the disgraced quarterback, fresh from federal custody, dominated discussion on sports radio, television news and Internet sites, not to mention offices and taverns. By last night, more than 33,000 people had voted in a Philly.com poll, with the results split: Fifty-one percent opposed the signing, 49 percent supported it.

"When I heard it," said Bill Fey, who is active in Gloucester County politics, "I nearly drove off the road. . . . How can you sign a guy who hangs dogs from a tree and shocks them?"

Vick, 29, was the first pick in the 2001 NFL draft, chosen by the Atlanta Falcons. He served 18 months of a 23-month federal sentence after being convicted of running a dog-fighting operation in Newport News, Va.

Vick was released from federal custody on July 20 and quickly sought to renew his NFL career. Hardly anyone suspected it would be with the Eagles, which helped drive the reaction.

President Obama's difficulty in selling health-care changes? A tripling of the death toll in the Taiwan typhoon? Sorry, not news. Not in this town. Not yesterday.

"Am I going to buy his jersey? As soon as they make them, yes, I am. You can bet on that," said James Cutts, 72, of South Philadelphia.

He was interviewed at a Modell's sporting goods store on Chestnut Street in Center City, where staffers said they expected to have Vick jerseys on shelves Monday. Other area Modell's stores hope to offer them today, and the NFL's on-line merchandizing arm, theNFLshop.com, already had replica jerseys on sale for $79.99 yesterday.

"I think we should let bygones be bygones and start afresh," said Shantae Thorpe of Mount Airy, who said people needed to move beyond Vick's past.

On Twitter, the Vick signing ranked among the day's top three topics, and the tweets were overwhelmingly negative. Some people called for boycotts of the Eagles and their corporate partners.

The eBay auction site offered Michael Vick chew toys for dogs, along with T-shirts that say "Lock up your dogs Philly" and "Forgive Vick."

Some Eagles fans dumped their tickets. "If the Eagles are going to sell out, then so am I," read a sales listing on Craigslist.

But far more people begged for tickets. "If you're disappointed in the Eagles for picking up Michael Vick, I will gladly take your tickets off of your hands," one wrote.

The Eagles' decision to sign Vick was driven by coach Andy Reid, who said the player deserved another chance. Everybody had an opinion about that.

"I don't have to take a backseat to anyone in my commitment to helping protect all animals, and specifically our dogs and puppies," said Gov. Rendell. "I also believe strongly in the tenets of rehabilitation and redemption. I believe Michael Vick has paid a strong and just penalty for his horrific acts, but he has endured that penalty with dignity and grace. He seems to be genuinely remorseful."

Mayor Nutter issued a statement saying he did not condone Vick's behavior and obviously did not support cruelty to animals, but understood "the importance of embracing and providing second chances to those who are working to get their lives back on track."

He said he looked forward to Vick's work on cruelty prevention, a cause the player has promised to champion.

Many fans said they felt the same way.

"His punishment is over and done with," said Lamont Anderson, 40, of South Philadelphia. "It's time to give him a second chance."

But animal-welfare advocates across the region are fuming, upset that the nation's highest-profile animal abuser has come here.

They are considering staging protests at Lincoln Financial Field and boycotts of Eagles' sponsors. Some say they'll switch off the TV during games - even mail their Eagles jerseys to pet shelters.

Bill Smith, executive director of Main Line Animal Rescue, said the group would rent billboards near the stadium to highlight the heinous acts that Vick committed against dogs. Animals that failed him as fighters were shot, hung and electrocuted.

"We don't want people to forget what happened," said Smith, whose Chester Springs shelter has helped rehabilitate pit bulls seized in dog-fighting raids.

William Hawkins, former board vice president of the Pennsylvania SPCA, said dog-loving ticket holders should turn in their seats and demand refunds.

"The only way the Philadelphia Eagles can understand they made a big mistake is if someone hits them in the wallet," he said.

Yesterday, about 20 protesters gathered in front of the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia as Vick appeared before reporters. Demonstrators held signs that said "Vick is sick" and "Hide your beagle, Vick's an Eagle."

Inside, Vick apologized for abusing dogs and pledged to be active in stopping animal cruelty.

The protesters were not convinced.

Nate Madison, 17, came from Hatboro with his Rottweiler, Neo, so he could boo the Eagles' new player.

"If he wants another shot at life, he should get a real job," Madison said. "He shouldn't have the privilege of playing NFL football."

Others supported Vick.

Chris Cabrera, 33, came to the center from Merchantville with his brown pit bull, Tyson. The dog wore a red jersey with the number 7 and "Vick" scrawled on the back.

Cabrera, who wore an Eagles jersey, said Vick deserved another chance.

"He's been punished," he said. "You can't begrudge a guy his livelihood."

Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415 or jgammage@phillynews.com.
Contributing to this article were staff writers Matt Gelb, Naomi Nix, and Edward Colimore.