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Percy Harvin dazzles in return to Minnesota until injury forces him out

New York Jets wide receiver Percy Harvin celebrates

New York Jets wide receiver Percy Harvin celebrates with teammate Jeremy Kerley after catching a 35-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL game, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Minneapolis. Photo Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

MINNEAPOLIS - Jets receiver Percy Harvin's first game back in Minnesota Sunday -- where he began his career and was named the NFL's top offensive rookie in 2009 -- featured glimpses of what Vikings fans saw from him during his four seasons here.

It also featured one of the great frustrations during his ultimately unfulfilled time, both with the Vikings and Seahawks, as an injury prevented him from helping his new team, the Jets.

Harvin caught the Jets' lone touchdown, hauling in a 35-yard pass from Geno Smith in the end zone. He saluted the Vikings fans to a chorus of boos. Then he flipped the ball into the stands to a Vikings fan wearing a No. 84 jersey. That's the number now worn by Cordarrelle Patterson, the new speedy SEC product who can return kicks, catch passes and run out of the backfield. Patterson is the guy Minnesota hopes will fulfill Harvin's old role, eventually.

On the Jets' final drive of regulation, Harvin caught a 9-yard pass and was hit hard near his team's sideline. He did not return to the game. He left the locker room on crutches, after being checked by trainers because of a left ankle injury.

"I can't even put it into words," Harvin said when asked to describe his frustration at the injury. "Especially at the end of the game, you've got OT, the offense is playing well, the game on the line, I definitely, definitely didn't want to be on the sideline, I wanted to be in that battle with my guys to finish this thing out. But I couldn't go."

When he could play, he was often spectacular, showing off the speed that made the Vikings draft him in the first round in 2009, and that helped Seattle win the Super Bowl last season. He was the game's leading receiver, catching six passes for 124 yards, and picking up 109 more yards on four kickoff returns.

"He was the difference in the game. He gave us a great shot with his return ability, as a receiver, everything," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "He did a tremendous job for us and obviously, we know what kind of explosive player he is. The kind of talent he has is rare."

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn't in Minnesota to coach Harvin, but came into the game fully aware of the wrinkles he brings, and said that slowing the speedy Jet was the home team's biggest challenge.

"When he was starting to catch balls and we had to change and start concentrating on him a lot more, that was the most disappointing thing for me," Zimmer said.

A throng of reporters crowded around Harvin after the game, asking him about the kick returns and the touchdown, and asking just as many questions about the injury. Harvin had surgery on his right ankle in 2012 after missing 10 games for the Vikings, in a season when he appeared to be in the offensive MVP discussion before going down.

Sunday, in his return to where his pro career began, he showed glimpses of both the incredible talent that can win games, and the frustrating injuries that in this case can derail them.

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