As Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis prepares to play in Super Bowl XLVII Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, questions continue to arise about his legacy and his connection to a double murder that took place 13 years ago in Atlanta.

On January 31, 2000, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker were stabbed to death during a fight in the early morning hours after Super Bowl XXXIV. The killings occurred after an argument between at least one person from the victims’ group of friends and at least one member of Lewis’ entourage.

Lollar and Baker had moved from Akron, Ohio to Atlanta to look for a better life. Several of their friends from Ohio were leaving the Cobalt Lounge around the same time Lewis and his friends walked out of the club.

One of Lewis’ co-defendants in the double murder trial, Reginald Oakley, says in an interview with Examiner.com that Lewis didn’t testify about everything he knew about the fatal fight, and tried to shift suspicion onto Oakley after the killings. Still, Oakley says his only problem with Lewis is that the future Hall of Famer blamed Oakley for instigating the fight.

Lewis and friends Oakley and Joseph Sweeting were indicted on murder charges 11 days after the killings. Later, after multiple witnesses changed their testimony from what they originally told police, the prosecution made a deal with Lewis, dropping the murder charges against him in exchange for testifying against Oakley and Sweeting. However, both men were acquitted after Lewis’ testimony.

Only Lewis was convicted of anything – obstruction of justice – for initially lying to authorities and withholding information. Lewis was placed on a year of probation by the court and fined $250,000 by the NFL. He later paid settlements to family members of both Lollar and Baker.

According to a CNN transcript of court testimony, Lewis admitted telling his friends and the limousine driver to “Keep your mouth shut” as the limo drove away from the scene of the crime. Lewis was concerned about the incident impacting his football career.

Lewis gave a false statement to police, denying knowing the people in his limousine, which sped away after the fight. Lewis also withheld information that some of the people in his limousine were involved in the brawl.

Lewis, who was named MVP of the Super Bowl one year after the killings, became an NFL icon during his 17-year career. The future Hall of Famer is surely the most famous defensive player in the league. He is celebrated by players, fans and media for his football ability and unabashedly emotional personality.

Though Lewis is portrayed and perceived as a mythic hero figure by many, others believe his career is tarnished for his role in what happened 13 years ago.

And the mother of victim Richard Lollar, Priscilla Lollar, goes a lot further. She believes Lewis is responsible for her son’s death.

Some say the case shouldn’t be dredged up after so long. But two people were killed and no one was held responsible for the crimes.

After 13 years, it’s still not clear what exactly happened, and it probably never will be. We want easy answers, but there are none. The case is confusing and complicated.

Life isn’t simple like sports are. In sports, there are clearly defined winners and losers, statistics help measure success, and everything is analyzed and replayed on TV.

From the beginning, there were significant problems with the prosecution’s case. Authorities never interviewed two of the men who jumped into Lewis’ limousine before it drove off from the crime scene. Investigators also failed to interview several other witnesses.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, who hadn’t tried a case in almost four years, appointed himself as the lead prosecutor in the trial.  Defense lawyers accused Howard of rushing to judgment.

Multiple witnesses drastically changed their stories from what they initially told police investigators to what they actually testified to on the stand.

And by granting Lewis a plea bargain, Howard, who at the beginning of the trial told the court Lewis was a liar, placed himself in the position of having to prove to the jury that Lewis was credible in testifying against Oakley and Sweeting.

For example, after blood was found on pillows in Lewis’ hotel room after the killings, Howard questioned Lewis so he could provide an explanation. Lewis told the court:

“I had an injury from football that my head — usually when I play, my head gets cut open a lot of times. I have a certain type of skin on the of my head, falitivitis (sic) or something like that. I’m not sure what — exactly what it is, but it bleeds. It used to bleed a lot, and now it’s just really getting, you know, controlled now.”

Howard asked if Lewis took medication for that condition and Lewis replied, “Yes.”

Virtually everyone who testified or talked about the case described varying versions of who started the fight, what exactly happened during the melee, and what occurred in its aftermath. It didn’t help that the incident occurred shortly before 4 a.m., when many witnesses and those involved in the incident were at least partly intoxicated.

No one testified that Lewis ever possessed a knife, and Lewis never testified that he saw a knife in the hands of Oakley or Sweeting during the incident.

During the trial, and again in recent articles leading up to the Super Bowl, much attention has been devoted to what happened during the fight and its aftermath. But less scrutiny has been given to how the fight started. Below are multiple versions of how the tragic events began. The different, sometimes conflicting accounts are perhaps indicative of inconsistencies given by witnesses before and during the trial.

Who Started the Fight?

This much is clear: Words were exchanged between at least one member of the Ohio group and at least one person from Lewis’ entourage. The argument may have started because of a misunderstanding about a phrase that was spoken by someone from one of the groups. At one point, Baker hit Oakley over the head with a bottle of champagne, and that’s when the fight started.

To read the rest of my article on Examiner.com, including an interview with Reginald Oakley, excerpts from court testimony, and information from witness statements to police, please click here.