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Man who got leg back, now giving back

Amputee John Wood became famous last fall when he went on Judge Greg Mathis' reality TV court program to fight for the return of his mummified leg, which had been unintentionally sold when his belongings were auctioned by a storage facility. The buyer, Shannon Whisnant, told Mathis that he wanted the leg for a tourist attraction. Wood prevailed and won his leg back. He now lives in Atlanta but says he's returning to Charlotte on Saturday to join in radio personality Keith Larson's Ride for the Kids 5 charity fundraiser.

Following are excerpts of an interview with staff writer Mark Price.

Q. So, where's the leg?

For six months, I kept it in the bottom my golf bag, with a Master's dust cover on it. … Now, it's in my closet. My agent says I should get insurance on that thing and keep it in a safer place, but it's here, near me. That leg's been mine 43 years and I'm keeping it.

Q. Your agent?

Yeah, I got a lot going on. There's a California-based producer making a documentary about my life and the 14 accidents I've been in and the custody battle between me and Shannon. I got a part in a movie coming up, being filmed in Atlanta … Shannon and I did an episode of the Urban Legends show … devoted to the leg and the grill. They came out and filmed us separately. It's supposed to air in October on A&E. I still have some continuity with Judge Mathis, too. I'm filming an update of my case for the upcoming season.

Q. What's your relationship with Shannon?

None. He wanted to make my leg a Halloween attraction, an Easter Leg Hunt, a Foot of July … He's called me, wanting to bury the hatchet. All he's got now is an empty grill and I guess the phone has stopped ringing. I got me a new grill and I got my leg, so I'm back in business.

Q. Why'd you move to Atlanta?

After the plane crash that caused me to have my leg amputated, I developed post traumatic stress syndrome … and a substance abuse problem with pain killers. Hospitals cure broken bones, but not addiction … The Judge Mathis show don't usually take much of a personal interest in one case versus another, but as a result of me being on there … Warner Brothers sent me to Ridgeview Institute in Atlanta, one of the Top 5 treatment centers in the country. I'm nine months clean and sober as of last week … Now, I'm hanging around, doing a lot of volunteer work.

Q. What is it about your leg that still intrigues people?

I think it's the fact that I haven't really cheapened the story by pimping myself out, or showing the leg for money. Believe me, I've been offered a lot of money to see this leg. It still has a mystique. I don't have a single picture of it. The police, the medical examiner, even Shannon doesn't have a picture of the leg.

Q. Why all the charity work?

I feel like I need to give back, especially giving back to Charlotte. I feel some people in Charlotte think this whole story stereotyped Southerners. Even now, when I do radio interviews for shows on the West Coast, I hear them playing banjo music in the background. I just want to show people around my home that something good can come of this, through community service.

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