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Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng, of Sudan, holds a Sudanese flag as he waits to cast his vote for the Southern Sudan Referendum at polling center in Chicago, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO– Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng cast his vote alongside other jubilant Sudanese on Sunday in the historic referendum on whether the southern part of Sudan should split from the north and become independent.

Deng arrived at the office-turned-polling station on Chicago’s North Side to a hero’s welcome, drawing cheers from the Sudanese waiting to vote when he briefly draped himself with a Southern Sudan flag.

One man yelled in response, “Hey Lu, that’s a good color on you, man!”

Deng, a native of Sudan who moved to London as a child to escape the conflict in his homeland, has encouraged his fellow countrymen to vote on the independence referendum over the past few months. On Sunday, the basketball player said all he wants is peace and happiness for his country, which has been at war for most of his life.

“A lot of people have fought for this day, a lot of lives have been lost over this and now we have a say,” Deng said. “All we could do in the past is run. Now we’re here today to show we’re not running, we’re here to make a difference.”

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