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The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nicki Jhab­vala Nicki Jhab­vala: njhab­vala@den­ver­post.com or @Nick­iJhab­vala

De­mary­ius Thomas hopes his mother can come to the game.»

Taped on the in­side of De­mary­ius Thomas’ locker at the Bron­cos’ prac­tice fa­cil­ity is a grainy im­age of a woman he went years with­out see­ing.

Since Fe­bru­ary 2000, his mother, Katina Stuckey Smith, 43, had been in­car­cer­ated for her role in a co­caine ring that she ran in Ge­or­gia with Thomas’ grand­mother, Min­nie Pearl Thomas.

Orig­i­nally given a sen­tence of more than 24 years, Smith’s term was re­duced to 20 in 2008 be­fore it was com­muted by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama last July. Smith was among 46 drug of­fend­ers whose sen­tences, Obama said, did not fit the crime.

Smith was re­leased from a half­way house in Ge­or­gia on Nov. 9, but she was not com­pletely free. Per the terms of her pro­ba­tion, she would be on a 60-day travel re­stric­tion, for­bid­ding her from leav­ing Ge­or­gia to see her son play in the reg­u­lar sea­son, as he had orig­i­nally hoped upon learn­ing of her early prison re­lease.

But the Bron­cos’ last two vic­to­ries, which sealed their post­sea­son fate and gave them a bye week be­fore the divi­sional play­offs, meant Thomas’ mother might still be able to see her son play.

With her travel re­stric­tion now lifted, that time could come Sun­day, when the Bron­cos host the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers in an AFC divi­sional play­off game.

“That’s what we’re work­ing on,” Thomas said Wed­nes­day. “Hope­fully. That’s the goal.”

Thomas was only 12 when his mother and grand­mother were con­victed. They never saw him play at West Lau­rens High School in Dex­ter, Ga. They never saw him play at Ge­or­gia Tech. They have never seen him play in the NFL as a star re­ceiver for the Bron­cos.

But they were his most ar­dent sup­port­ers from the Fed­eral Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion in Tal­la­has­see, Fla.

Since last year, just days be­fore he signed a five-year, $70 mil­lion con­tract to re­main with the Bron­cos, Thomas had set his sights on the mo­ment when he could look up and see his mother in the stands at Sports Au­thor­ity Field, and when he could em­brace her im­me­di­ately af­ter a game.

“It’d mean a lot,” he said. “It’d be her first game. I know she’d be ex­cited. It’d mean a lot for her to see my first game live.”

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