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Hometown NFL player gives back with 4th celebration

Dunbar Park played host to a classic summer scene on Sunday – smoke rising from grills, children enjoying fun in the water and community members talking and catching up with friends.

Hosted by Greenville High School alumnus and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Za’Darius Smith, the celebration featured an array of inflatable bounce houses and waterslides, music by DJ Frye and food by Chef Algia “AJ” Edwards. Activities included face painting and several stations set up for children, including bowling, although the waterslides and bounce houses drew most of the attention.

The event ran throughout the afternoon, beginning at 3 p.m. until the threat of rain caused it to end a bit early. Smith said he sees the event as an opportunity to give back to the community and serve as a role model for local children.

“I wanted to come home and get with the kids, spend some time with them, actually build relationships with them,” the 6-foot-4, 274-pound outside linebacker said. “A lot of these kids may not have their father, may not have anybody to look up to, so a guy like me that went to college, it’s good for them to see that.”

The night ended with a firework show.

Sharon Smith, Za’Darius’ mother, said she remembers her son always being obsessed with fireworks, shooting them off throughout his childhood and getting neighbors to take him to the fireworks stand when she wouldn’t. Sharon Smith, who says she has always been her son’s “biggest fan,” said she appreciates him showing support for and giving back to the community.

Za’Darius Smith played mainly basketball for Greenville High School before trying football his senior year, quickly becoming a standout defensive player for the Tigers. He attended East Mississippi Community College for two years before transferring to the University of Kentucky.

After graduating from Kentucky, he was drafted in the 4th round by the Baltimore Ravens. He currently remains on the NFL team.