A cut on his arm in an exhibition game in Chapel Hill, N.C., last week made Magic Johnson realize how difficult it would be to play in the NBA while carrying the AIDS virus.
"You know, you could see the fear upon people's faces," Johnson said in a "PrimeTime Live" interview with Chris Wallace that will air tonight. "Did he bandage it all? Is it all bandaged up? Is it all right? It's not leaking? You know, that whole thing."Johnson retired from the Los Angeles Lakers last Nov. 7 when he tested positive for HIV. He came out of retirement in September, then retired again on Monday, three days after the exhibition game at Chapel Hill.
Johnson said the criticism and the fear after that game made him decide to quit, and he told his wife: "I didn't have fun last night because I was thinking about this cut and this bandage. . . . I said that I just don't need it, you don't need it, and meanwhile we'll just go on, have fun and enjoy our lives. And I can do my work, continue to do my work outside of basketball."
PrimeTime Live originally taped an interview with Johnson on Oct. 24, before his second retirement, and Wallace flew to Los Angeles on Tuesday to update it.
Johnson said in the interview that he was "helped out" of the league by his fellow players, including Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, who played with Johnson on the U.S. team that won an Olympic gold medal at Barcelona.
Still, he holds no bitterness, he told Wallace.
"I'm upset, but I'm not bitter," he said. "I'm not a bitter type of guy. . . . I don't hold grudges. I don't sit here and think that doggone Karl Malone."
However, he said, "You do subject yourself to not having fun and not having a good time because of what uneducated people think and feel, so every city you've got to answer these same questions over and over again."
Johnson repeated his comments in an interview with columnist Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News.
"I'm not mad at anybody. I'm really not," Johnson said in a column published Wednesday. "If I'm anything, I'm disappointed. Disappointed about walking away from the game. And disappointed about people's attitudes.
"If there's one big thing I've found out the last few weeks, it's just how much work I've still got to do with the way people look at this thing. I'm going to have to do a better job educating people about this virus."
Johnson said his sadness over the situation extended beyond his own feelings to "the players who feel the way they do. Or people who aren't in the NBA who feel the way they do about people with the virus, or the disease. I'm sad because people haven't educated themselves enough.
"I think the money's going to keep coming in. I think we're going to find a way to lick this thing. But between here and there, attitude's the whole thing.
"If there's one big job I got now, it's changing people's attitudes. I got to do better there. If they feel this way about me, they feel this way about everybody."