PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Whether the blue dawn that broke like a thin ribbon across the Indiana horizon yesterday morning was fitting symbolism for Mike Tyson upon his release from the Indiana Youth Center prison, only time and Tyson will be able to determine.
More than 200 reporters and camera crews, along with hundreds of curiosity seekers, some wearing T-shirts that read, "Tyson is Back," waited for hours in the cold and dark outside the low, red-brick administration building here about 18 miles east of Indianapolis to witness the 28-year-old Tyson step into a waiting black limousine after serving three years and six weeks of a six-year sentence for a rape conviction.
Tyson's departure at 6:15 a.m., with his retinue encircling him, was reminiscent of his scenes from the ring, except for the expression on the former champion's face.
There was none of the arrogance and swagger so often !c associated with him, after having mercilessly dispatched an opponent, or on the witness stand at his trial in 1992, haughtily snatching a garment in evidence worn by his accuser, Desiree Washington, then an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant at the Black Expo in Indianapolis and now a fifth-grade student teacher in Pawtucket, R.I.
Followed by boxing promoter Don King and Tyson's Svengali, and surrounded by John Horne and Rory Holloway, Tyson's co-managers, and Fruit of Islam bodyguards, Tyson emerged from the doorway of the building.
Wearing a dark suit and a crocheted, eggshell Islamic prayer cap, he was shielded from the cameras by a bodyguard who spread open his black leather coat.
From around the country and from such places as Japan and Italy and England and Brazil, several hundred reporters and camera crews, restrained behind the kind of yellow tape familiar in crime or accident scenes, stood in the near-freezing morning temperatures amid vans and satellite dishes and glaring television lights to catch a glimpse of Tyson.
Several radio-station helicopters whirred overhead in the still-black sky that was illuminated with a sprinkling of stars and a quarter moon.
Before leaving prison, Tyson filled out the count form, which states that he will not be among the 1,130 prisoners who must be accounted for, and signed a probation form. He is on probation for the next four years. Tomorrow, he must report to his probation officer in Ohio.
"When I saw him before he left, he said, 'Goodbye, and thanks,' nothing more," said Phil Slavens, assistant superintendent for the prison, who noticed Tyson was reading Ring magazine in his cell.
Tyson did not acknowledge the crowd, but a statement was released that said: "I'm very happy to be out and on my way home. I want to thank everyone for their support. I will have more to say in the future. I'll see you all soon."
The limousine with King, Horne, Holloway and Monica Turner, a Georgetown medical student whom Slavens said had visited Tyson before, arrived at 5:52 a.m. with members of the Fruit of Islam in a red Lincoln in front of it and a blue Buick in back.
When Tyson climbed into the limo and the cars pulled away, there was a chase, some in cars and some on foot.
Tyson's entourage then sped to the headquarters of the Islamic Society of North America, a mosque about five miles from the prison. Tyson, who is said to have converted to Islam two years ago, was joined in prayers by Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight champion and convert to Islam, and the rapper Hammer, who is not a Muslim.
Tyson has not publicly declared his religious affiliation, though in 1988 he was formally baptized, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson presiding.
Tyson was flown by private jet from the Indianapolis International Airport to Youngstown-Warren Municipal Airport in Ohio and was driven to his 66-acre farm in Southington, near Youngstown.
Nine months ago, Tyson had attempted to have his prison sentence reduced. In an Indianapolis courthouse in which he was wearing blue prison clothes and handcuffs, Tyson told the judge he had witnessed things that "could totally drive" someone "insane."
Tyson, who once described himself as "the baddest man on the planet," told the court he had changed.
"I was young, I was arrogant, I didn't treat people correctly," he said. "I've changed."
But Tyson wasn't convincing to the judge, Patricia Gifford, particularly because he had neglected to attend classes regularly for completion of a high school equivalency program that was part of the rehabilitation program and because, while he said he was "sorry" about the "situation," he never formally apologized to Washington, with whom he maintains he had consensual sex. Gifford ordered the fighter to complete his sentence.
But had he changed? "It seems he's matured," said Slavens. "He seemed at peace with himself."
Tyson would be trading in his 8-foot by 10 1/2 -foot prison cell for his 14-room estate in Southington. And he would be trading in his jobs of cleaning dormitories and handing out equipment in the prison gym, and his $75 every-other-week spending money, for a return to the arena, where fighters are lined up in hopes of exchanging punches with him in his first return fight for what could be as much as a combined $100 million payday.
According to King's boxing director, Al Braverman, his first fight will be in late June or early July, against a ranking but probably not well-known fighter.
It had been a long and circuitous route for Tyson, often spectacular, sometimes tumultuous, invariably finding his way into the headlines for events he got involved in outside of the ring as frequently as in it.
He made an estimated $40 million and lived like a sultan, believing that anything he wanted, whenever he wanted it, was his by the birthright of his swift, menacing fists.
His former manager, Bill Cayton, says he has been "stripped clean" of almost all of his money. His marriage and divorce to the actress Robin Givens made headlines around the world, and his wild forays, from conviction of fondling a woman in a bar -- he was fined $100 -- to the rape conviction contributed to his notoriety.
All the success, so early, Tyson admitted, was harmful. "It was like it all just dropped from the sky," he had said. "But I've learned."
As the cars pulled away from prison in the growing light of day, people shouted well-wishes after Tyson. Someone, perhaps lost, shouted, "Free the Juice!"
Slavens was asked if he knew where Tyson was now headed.
"No," he said. "All I know is that he is off state property."