The relationship between McNabb and Eagles fans was uneasy from the beginning, when a group of fans clamoring for running back Ricky Williams traveled to New York to boo the selection of McNabb in the 1999 NFL draft.
There was nothing but cheering when McNabb walked out of the tunnel and onto the field where he celebrated an NFC championship and completed a fourth-and-26 pass to help win a playoff game.
"I appreciate everything you've done for me," McNabb told the sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. "No. 5 will always love you."
A chant of "Donovan, Donovan" went up, and fans held up their No. 5 jerseys. As green fireworks exploded over the stadium, a banner with McNabb's name and number was unveiled.
Safety Brian Dawkins, McNabb's teammate for 10 years, worked up the crowd and introduced the quarterback.
"It was my pleasure going to war with you all those years," Dawkins said. "From the bottom of my heart, brother, I thank you."
Over the years, McNabb was involved in a number of off-the-wall controversies involving Rush Limbaugh, Terrell Owens, Bernard Hopkins and the head of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.
He might have swept all of that uneasiness away if he'd led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title. But the ultimate goal eluded him despite appearances in five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl.
McNabb finished as the Eagles' career leader in passing yards, attempts, completions and touchdowns.
He was the No. 2 pick in 1999, Andy Reid's first season as coach of the Eagles. After 11 seasons, Reid traded McNabb to Washington for draft picks on Easter Sunday in 2010. He played one season in Washington and part of the 2011 season in Minnesota. McNabb officially announced his retirement over the summer.
The ceremony was scheduled for Thursday night to coincide with the return of Reid. When Reid walked on the field with the Chiefs, the video screens in the stadium flashed "Thank you Coach Reid" along with Reid's career numbers in Philadelphia. Although there was discussion on sports talk radio all week about the reaction Reid would get, he was greeted with a standing ovation.