INDIANAPOLIS – The crowd was already standing, but they stood a little longer to acknowledge his return.
713 days after walking off the field following the Colts 2013 season opener, as the team's leading rusher, Vick Ballard was finally back.
Ballard's two carries for four yards on Saturday night won't stand out in any box score but his name has been missing from that sheet of paper for nearly two years.
"It felt good," Ballard said of his first game-action since that 2013 season opener versus Oakland.
"It was a small step in me getting back to where I want to be."
On the Colts third offensive drive against the Bears, Ballard entered the game.
His first play would come on a third-and-eight, where Andrew Luck found T.Y. Hilton for a 45-yard connection.
With the crowd still cheering form Hilton's big gain, it was time for Ballard to keep them on their feet.
A gain of two yards, followed by a PA announcement of "Vick Ballard on the carry" marked the culmination of a trying return.
Chuck Pagano said earlier this week that he was hoping to see Ballard in game action after the fourth-year running back had shown no setbacks from a Training Camp hamstring injury.
"That was obviously great for Vick to just get out there and play again," Pagano said after the game.
"Two long years, a long journey and really happy for Vick and happy that he got out there."
The reps for Ballard (played eight snaps on Saturday) will be increased going forward as the Colts try to evaluate just how healthy the former starting running back is after back-to-back season-ending injuries.
Ballard said after the game it's all about knocking off the rust in his effort to get back to the player that shined in 2012.
Back then, Ballard was an unsung hero, starting a dozen games and finishing his rookie campaign as the team's leading rusher.
At times, a moment like Saturday night probably seemed like a universe away.
However, with a different perspective, Ballard knew this eventual step would occur.
"It's been tough, but keeping moments like this, (even) breaking down the huddle, like Coach Pagano let me do in practice the other week, small things that players take for granted, I kept my mind on those types of things and looked forward to that stuff," Ballard said after his two-carry night.
"It was like riding a bike. You fall off, but you get back and start riding again. It felt good to be in a real game situation."