Despite ejection, Argos' Belli still retires champion

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The Canadian Press
11/26/2012 1:00:30 AM
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TORONTO -- Adriano Belli may have been kicked out of his final career game on the CFL's biggest stage, but he's still retiring a Grey Cup champion.

The 35-year-old defensive lineman, who is known as a character, watched the last quarter of the Toronto Argonauts' 35-22 win over Calgary in the 100th Grey Cup from the dressing room Sunday after being ejected for roughing with 2:26 to play in the third quarter.

"Just having a bit of fun, screwing around," Belli said when asked why he was ejected. "You know what, it's not two-hand touch. You bring in a guard dog and you've got to let him bite people.

"I was in here, I was just hoping, saying I hope they win. If they lose there's going to be a lot of long faces."

Instead the Argonauts won the historic trophy.

Belli had retired before the 2011 season, but it turns out he wasn't quite done with the CFL. The Argonauts came calling in October when they needed defensive help.

As reluctant he was to come back at first, he is glad that he did.

"It's amazing, so fitting," he said. "Home town boy. Toronto, 100th Grey Cup, finish my career getting kicked out with my rap sheet over the years. I couldn't be happier. Since I'm going to retire I don't think the coaches can flip out any longer. I've driven them crazy enough over the years."

Argos general manager Jim Barker called him because he wanted to give the team a spark.

"I was in Milan on vacation when Barker called me," Belli said. "They said your gear is ready, come.

"My goal initially was just to come to practice, show up at one practice, and give them a good pep talk. It turned out with us winning the Cup. I've had such a fun ride I feel so lucky."

Belli is known as the Kissing Bandit because he will kiss teammates or reporters alike on the cheek or on the top of the head. He was at it again after being splashed with some beverages following Sunday's game.

"With (quarterback) Ricky Ray and so many incredible athletes on this team I just feel lucky to be part of it and chip in as much as I could," he said. "I got there the first week. there were so many new faces but then everybody's personality comes out over time and you start winning and guys start bonding even closer. What a ride it's been over these six weeks."

He was also on a Grey Cup championship team in 2002 with the Montreal Alouettes, but he admits that this one was a little bit more special.

"I grew up watching the Argos," he said. "They were an amazing club in Toronto and we need to rebuild that. Hopefully today brought us one step closer."

Belli and Milanovich (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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