Dixie Chicks draw sellout in U.S. return

— Returning to their namesake homeland Thursday, the Dixie Chicks found that some wounds are soon forgotten. Or at least forgiven.

In their first U.S. concert appearance since a slap at President Bush on the eve of war, Natalie Maines and company were greeted with thunderous applause at a sold-out Bi-Lo Center in the patriotic heart of the South.

It didn't take long for Maines to acknowledge the controversy, and she met it head-on.

"They said you might not come," Maines told the crowd after the third song. "But we knew you'd come because we have the greatest fans in the whole world.

"If you're here to boo, we welcome that. Because we welcome freedom of speech. We're going to give you 15 seconds to get whatever you have out."

A silence settled over the arena, then came a shout.

"I love you," a man yelled.

With that, Maines counted down, three-two-one, and fans erupted in a frenzied screaming. The group cut into "Long Time Gone," a song about leaving a small town and seeking your dreams.

"People should just get over it," said Stephanie Culbreath, 23, a fan who came from Greenwood, S.C. "This is just another thing for us to disagree on."

About two dozen demonstrators stood on the street outside the arena.Returning to their namesake homeland Thursday, the Dixie Chicks found that some wounds are soon forgotten. Or at least forgiven.

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