WASHINGTON -- Michael Jordan's need to play basketball again is stronger than his fear of tarnishing his legacy.
"When I retired last time, I didn't say I was ready to quit the game," Jordan said Monday at a news conference attended by about 200 media members. "It's an itch that still needs to be scratched here, and I don't want that itch to bother me for the rest of my life.
"What I'm trying to do is get that last scratch in."
Speaking in calm, measured tones on a stage set up at the Wizards' practice court, Jordan touched on several subjects related to this comeback -- the second of his career.
He said he is not afraid to fail and does not want to steal the spotlight from the league's younger stars. He also said he considers himself 100 percent fit and plans to play in all 82 of Washington's games.
As for his legacy and the storybook finish to his career with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan said those factors were more important to others than to him.
"If that was my concern, I wouldn't do this. I'm not afraid to take on a challenge," he said.
He said he will try to take things slowly this season, not trying to do too much too soon. He said the Wizards should improve on last season's record of 19-63, but he'd be "surprised" if Washington was able to win 50 games.
The Wizards will open training camp Tuesday in Wilmington, N.C. Their first regular season game is Oct. 30 in New York against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
"I have to be patient, let things fall into place and not expect myself to score 40 or 50 points the first night," said Jordan, who strode onstage for his news conference wearing a black and red sweat suit.
Jordan looked older than he did the last time he found himself in similar surroundings when he retired from the Bulls in January 1999. The bags under his eyes were a little more pronounced, and he sported a goatee.
He sat patiently through about 45 minutes of questioning, his left hand resting atop his right hand as he tried to explain the one question -- "Why?" -- that has been on everybody's mind ever since it became known earlier this year that he was seriously contemplating a comeback at age 38.
"It's all about challenges and going out and seeing if I can achieve something," Jordan said.
"America is supposed to be free will and choosing what you want to do. That's all I'm doing -- I'm just trying to play the game of basketball. If I can do it, great. If I can't, that's great too. But you can't take my six championships away and you can't take away all the things that I'm about," he said.
Admitting he will be somewhat nervous, Jordan nonetheless made it clear he is not afraid to return to the sport he dominated for the better part of a decade.
He has heard the brash talk from some of the league's younger players and how they will relish the chance to compete against a player considered by many to be the greatest in the game's history. He has been reading the nation's columnists, many of whom think he is making a mistake that will tarnish his legacy. He has heard his good friend Charles Barkley call it a "no-win" situation.
To him, though, none of those voices matter.
What matters is what the little voice inside Michael Jordan's head has been saying to Michael Jordan.
"I'm not walking into this darkly. I know what I'm capable of doing. I know what's going to be expected of me. I know everybody is putting my head on the chopping block," Jordan said.
"Everyone is motivated to come out and play against me, but everyone was motivated to play me when I left. So nothing has changed."