Relaxed Petty in familiar form

Why is Richard Petty smiling? Wouldn't you be if the weight of the world were lifted off your back?

Updated: January 22, 2009, 8:29 PM ET
By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- The famous Petty grin is gone -- the one that for decades seemed forced, posed, strained, too automatic, too locked at the corners of the mouth.

There were moments when you couldn't tell the man Richard Petty from the cardboard cutouts of him you'd see in supermarkets.

In place of the weathered grin Monday, there was an apparition -- an expression even more famous in its day: the broad, warm, relaxed and genuine Richard Petty smile.

I ...

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