ABC News’ Raelyn Johnson Reports: Nearly 1,000 students welcomed John Edwards back to the South in grand fashion Wednesday, with a rally on the campus of Clemson University in South Carolina.
"We need you involved in this democracy and in this process," the former North Carolina Senator said, thanking the students for their turnout.
Edwards, having finished a disappointing third in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night told the crowd that he needed their help in South Carolina.
"I won the South Carolina primary in 2004 and I was proud to have won it," he said. "But we have to make certain that every primary voter in South Carolina knows that I was born here, I know what your lives are like. I do not have to read this in a book. I know it first hand."
"So far there have been two contests, two states. Iowa, where I finished second; New Hampshire where I finished third. 48 states left to go and your voice here in South Carolina is going to be heard."
Edwards later argued the South Carolina contest would be a good test for him as well as rivals Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who lead him in the polls. In the early contests, Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, while Obama triumphed in Iowa.
At the beginning of his speech, Edwards was interrupted by a woman who wanted to take a photo. Edwards quipped, "I can tell I’m back in the South, and it feels good. Now what was I saying?"
Edwards attended Clemson University for a short time, and had walked on to the school’s football team. He later transferred to North Carolina State University. As a homecoming gift, students gave Edwards a football jersey with #1 on the back.
"Once a tiger, always a tiger," said one student, referring to Clemson’s mascot.