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‘Sweet Home Alabama’ gets new car tags

Drivers in Chilton County and across the state might get an inkling to play some Lynyrd Skynyrd after getting their new car tags next year.

Yesterday, state officials unveiled the design for the new license plate that will go into circulation in January. The new car tag features a colorful beach scene and the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” and will replace the “Stars Fell on Alabama” plates that have been in use since January 2002.

The new design carries the Alabama tourism department’s “Sweet Home Alabama” theme that was unveiled a year ago and appears in print ads and television commercials promoting the state as a vacation destination.

Gov. Bob Riley assigned the tourism department to design the new license plate and chose a beach scene to reflect the Gulf Coast’s importance to Alabama’s tourism industry. Together, Baldwin and Mobile counties generate more than 30 percent of the state’s $9.8 billion tourism revenue.

“A lot of people outside of Alabama don’t even know that we have beaches. When we put more than three million tags showing sea oats and a beautiful sunset over water into circulation, that will change,” Riley said.

Alabama tourism director Lee Sentell said the design is a major boost to the hospitality industry.

“Having the ‘sweet home’ phrase included is a real plus,” he said. “Sweet Home Alabama is the third most played song identifying a destination, behind ‘New York, New York’ and ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco.’”

Alabama Department of Revenue Motor Vehicle Division director Brenda Coone said car owners still have the option to select the “God Bless America” license plate with the patriotic flag design that does not identify the county where the plate was purchased.

The new tag will be issued for the next five years.