The King is in the house

NASCAR legend Richard Petty greets fans

Racing legend Richard Petty signs autographs at the Wal-mart SuperCenter in McDonough, Friday.

Racing legend Richard Petty signs autographs at the Wal-mart SuperCenter in McDonough, Friday.

McDONOUGH — Four-year-old Lawrence Cooley was a little shy at first in the presence of greatness, but the King quickly put him at ease as he signed autographs in the shadow of his former palace, Atlanta Motor Speedway.

King Richard Petty greeted race fans at the Wal-mart SuperCenter in McDonough Friday leading up to the speedway's grand ball with a full weekend of racing capped off by the AdvoCare 500, Sunday.

Petty is celebrating his 20th year of retirement from the sport that made his name a household word.

The NASCAR legend dominated the racing circuit throughout the better part of three decades, ending his career at Atlanta Motor Speedway, November 15, 1992 at the AMS Hooter's 500. 

Petty's popularity has not waned and fans stood in line for chance to meet their racing hero.

Randy Ricther was among the many fans who was able to have memorabilia signed by Petty Friday afternoon.

"I have been a fan for life," he said. 

Now Ricther is sharing his love for racing and admiration for Petty with his 4-year-old daughter Rachel who was greeted by the smiling NASCAR icon as he took time to pose with each fan and talked to the children as they filed past.

The event, made possible by Goody's Powder and Petty's Garage, brought back memories of the driver's final salute to fans at nearby AMS in Hampton. 

In his final race, back in 1992, Petty was involved in an accident and his car caught fire.

However, he escaped any injury and his crew was able to get the No. 24 back on the track so he could finish his final run.

Petty made his grand exit from the track by taking 10 laps, waving and saluting his loyal fan base.

Race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway begins with the Jeff Foxworthy Grit Chips 200, Friday and the NRA American Warrior 300 Saturday, finishing Sunday with the Sprint Cup Series race.