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Erin go bragh - again

By Ed Brock

Richard Petty, a regular at Benefield's Eatery & Saloon in Jonesboro, is ready for St. Patrick's Day.

"I'll have on green underwear," said Petty (not the NASCAR driver).

Irish eyes in Clayton County will be smiling again today, speaking blarney and wearing green in celebration of the Emerald Isle. Benefield's, like other area bars, will be pouring green beer and inaugurating its "Best Limerick" contest, said owner Larry Haines.

"We'll be drinking," Haines said.

The fact that St. Patrick's Day falls on a Thursday won't hurt his business much, Haines said, and in fact should enhance it because Thursdays are usually busy anyway at his bar on Old Dixie Highway.

"Plus we have the race in," said Haines, referring to the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Down the road at the Hooters restaurant on Tara Boulevard they'll be pouring more green beer and hosting the Irish Toast Contest sponsored by Guiness Beer, said Manager Mike Tart.

"It'll be the luck of the Irish here," Tart said.

But Tart is most proud of his organization's participation in Muscular Dystrophy Association's Shamrocks Against Dystrophy program. They've raised about $16,000 in shamrock sales over the past three weeks.

"We'll be sending 27 kids to the Muscular Dystrophy March of Dimes camp," Tart said.

Memories in Stockbridge will be serving corn beef, cabbage and green beer, owner Toney Jones said, and they'll also be playing "Texas Hold 'Em" poker.

Members of the Forest Park Senior Center will be having an Irish dinner to mark the occasion.

"We're going to have corn beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes and Irish soda bread," said Mary Ann Connely, senior services coordinator for Forest Park.

Tickets to the dinner are available to members only.

Clayton County residents may also want to make their way into Atlanta Saturday for the 124th Atlanta St. Patrick's Day Parade. The parade starts at 1 p.m. at Underground Atlanta, according to the event Web site, and is expected to have 20 major floats, six bagpipe and drum corps, firefighter equipment and police drill teams, dogs, horses, antique cars and more.

The city of Savannah's famous St. Patrick's Day celebrations started on March 2 and will culminate today with mass at the Cathedral of St. John at 8 a.m. followed by the annual parade at 10:15 a.m.