Francis Scott Key, who penned the "Star-Spangled Banner" in 1814, just might have a bone to pick with the thieves who stole a giant American flag recently recovered by Salt Lake County sheriff's officials.

The flag that flew in front of Beckstrand Management offices on the Van Winkle Expressway at Ninth East was found Thursday, badly damaged and stuffed in a sack with an explanatory note signed by "the star-spangled bandits," a spokeswoman said.Sheriff's detectives, acting on an anonymous tip, found the flag behind a billboard sign in a duffle bag two blocks north of the Beckstrand offices, said Beckstrand spokeswoman Kelli Jaynes. The attached note said the theft was a practical joke, she said.

"I feel like they didn't realize the consequences of what they've done; they deprived the public of a patriotic symbol," Jaynes said, recounting the uproar heard throughout the community following the flag's disappearance.

Beckstrand officials are pleased the flag was found and awestruck by public support for the recovery of the 30-by-50-foot flag, Jaynes said.

The management company offered a $500 reward leading to the return of the flag, touted as the largest one in the state, Jaynes said.

"The response from the public has been overwhelming," she said. "We'd like to tell the public `thank you.' "

Beckstrand received hundreds of phone calls and took in $2,000 in contributions, which the company will put toward buying a new flag to replace the battered flag.

Patriotic area residents gave from $5 to $50, while one business donated $1,000 to the cause, she said. Another company offered to provide and hang the flag at a discount, she said.

Beckstrand plans to hang a new flag next week, Jaynes said. Plans include using a Cub Scout pack to participate in the flag raising, she said.