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Ex-NFL player Burress pledges to educate youths about gun violence

By Laura Dolan, CNN
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Burress to fight gun violence
  • NEW: Burress plans to help educate young people about gun violence
  • He accidentally shot himself in the leg while at a Manhattan nightclub
  • He was not licensed to carry a pistol in New York or New Jersey, where he lived
  • Burress pleaded guilty to a weapons charge

New York (CNN) -- Former NFL wide receiver Plaxico Burress, released a week ago from a New York prison after serving 20 months on a weapons charge, said Monday he will volunteer to educate youth about gun violence and will recruit other professional athletes to do the same.

"The main reason why I am here today is to become more active in the community and serve a greater purpose in life and to assist the youth along the way to grow up and become role models and become better people," said Burress in his first public appearance since his release.

He spoke in a news conference at the offices of the National Urban League. Burress is partnering with the Urban League's Celebrity Empowerment Challenge and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Appearing with him were Urban League President Marc Morial and Brady Center President Paul Helmke, as well as former Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy.

"I paid a tremendous price for a bad decision," Burress said of his felony conviction. While he was in prison, he said, he asked himself, "How can I take the next the step and how can people learn from what happened to me."

Plaxico Burress released from prison

It was at that point when he decided to reach out to the Brady Center.

"I know I won't be able to save everybody, but if I could just help a child to think about the decision of carrying a firearm or not to carry one out of the home that he or she saves lives in itself," Burress said, explaining why he decided to volunteer.

The former New York Giants player was sentenced to prison after accidentally shooting himself in the leg with a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol he was carrying in his waistband. The incident occurred in November 2008 in the VIP area of the Latin Quarter nightclub in Manhattan.

Dungy, who has become a sort of image rehab specialist after helping Eagles quarterback Michael Vick get back into the NFL, said Burress' comeback "shouldn't be doubted."

Dungy made news himself when he said 90% of players carry guns. "I didn't expect that but that's the society we live in now, especially with young African-American men. That's what they've grown up with," he said.

Burress was not licensed to carry a pistol in either New York or New Jersey, where he lived.

In August 2009, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted criminal possession of a weapon and agreed to serve two years under a plea agreement.

He spent 20 months at the Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, New York.

Burress became a hero to New York Giants fans in the 2008 Super Bowl when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Manning with 35 seconds remaining in the game.

The following season, Burress' career with the Giants was marred by a series of incidents. He was suspended by the team in early October for missing a practice. Later that month, he was fined $45,000 by the NFL after arguing with a referee and throwing a football into the stands.

After the nightclub incident, Burress was suspended from the Giants. The team later released him.