MIAMI (WSVN) - From honorary conductor to honorary team captain, Brightline and the Miami Heat went the extra mile to honor a South Florida man who spent decades in jail for a murder he did not commit.

In the course of a day, Thomas Raynard James had two experiences that come along once in a lifetime.

Wednesday night, the honoree was front and center at the Miami Heat’s playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers, held at the FTX Arena.

“Thomas is an inspiration to us all, and we’re grateful he’s with us tonight,” said an announcer.

The Heat named James honorary captain.

“It was a thrill to me, a real thrill. It was more than I imagined, definitely more than I imagined,” he said.

Hours earlier, 7News cameras captured James, his arms raised in victory, as he walked into the Brightline station in downtown Miami to a warm welcome.

The special moments come a week after a Miami-Dade circuit judge vacated James’ life sentence.

“Emotionally, it was overwhelming,” he said.

Brightline named him an honorary conductor.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this,” he said.

“The second we heard your story, we were all moved, and we thought, ‘We’ve got to do something,'” said Ben Porritt, senior vice president of Brightline.

This was Thomas’ first ever ride on Brightline and his first train ride in 32 years.

The trip took him and his family from Miami to Fort Lauderdale.

“It means the world to me for two reasons: they get the chance to do something they haven’t done, and I’m the reason they’re doing it,” he said.

Prosecutors said James was wrongfully convicted in 1991 for the murder of Francis McKinnon in Coral Gables.

After three decades in prison, an eyewitness in the case recanted her statement, saying it was a mistake.

When Thomas was released, he told reporters one of the first things he wanted to do was ride the Brightline.

Porritt said they were honored to grant his wish.

“We’re so glad that you’re free. We’re so glad you’re with your friends and family and that we can host you today, so give it up for Thomas,” said Porritt as those in attendance cheered.

What followed was a trip James will never forget.

“For me, it’s an honor and a pleasure to be able stand right here today,” he said.

As for what his next steps will be, James said he plans to get a driver’s license, find a job and attain a sense of normalcy.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help James with expenses. If you would like to make a donation, click here.

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