JAMES Hird has received a rousing reception from Essendon supporters in his first official AFL commitments with the Bombers in seven years.
Hird, one of the Bombers' greatest players, was given a hero's welcome as he walked onto the MCG for Essendon's 150th anniversary celebrations ahead of Friday night's clash with arch rival Carlton.
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Captain of the Bombers' last premiership in 2000, Hird joined other Essendon greats for the pre-match festivities and was comfortably given the loudest roar out of any of the club's icons.
The 49-year-old has kept a low-profile since his painful exit as Essendon coach in 2015.
Hird was banned from coaching for the entire 2014 season following the dramatic fallout from Essendon's supplements saga.
He returned to coach the Bombers, but quit with three games to go in the 2015 season amid growing pressure from the drugs scandal and Essendon's increasingly poor on-field performances.
Hird has returned to the AFL this year, first as a leadership consultant at GWS and is now an assistant to Mark McVeigh after his former Bombers teammate became interim coach of the Giants following Leon Cameron's departure in May.
Hird, along with the likes of Kevin Sheedy, Matthew Lloyd, Tim Watson and Dustin Fletcher, gathered in the middle of the MCG around all 16 of Essendon's premiership clubs.
The inspirational Neale Daniher was also there with brothers Terry, Anthony and Chris ahead of the Big Freeze event on Monday.
The club legends then joined arms in a circle with the Bombers' current team in a stirring pre-match address from captain Dyson Heppell.
The hatred between Essendon and Carlton has now extended to the women's teams, with a chorus of boos being heard around the MCG after AFLW star Madison Prepakis turned up in Bombers colours after her recent high-profile switch from Carlton.