07/18/2012 at 01:00 PM EDT
He says he's a dog lover, and Michael Vick has an answer for anyone who questions his assertion.
"I know it may seem contradictory, but that's just the person that I was," he told Piers Morgan in an exclusive interview Tuesday night. "On one hand, I loved dogs, and on the other hand, I was in love with the competition behind [dogfighting], and for some reason I couldn't really see the meaning behind it, or why I was really doing it."
The NFL quarterback, who served three years in prison for running a dogfighting ring, appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight
to promote his new autobiography, Finally Free
, in which he chronicles his road to redemption, his love of dogs from a early age and witnessing his first dogfight at age 8.
He hopes his children will soon be able to experience a dog in their lives as well. This month, Vick's three-year ban from owning a dog expires.
"I can't take that dream away from them," he told Morgan. "That's selfish on my behalf. You know, so, gotta find a way to make it right and, you know, I put everything in God's hands to make it right."
Asked what type of dog he would get, Vick said, "I would let them pick it out. Certainly wouldn't be a pit bull."
Forever connected with that breed after 66 fighting dogs
and 8 dead pit bulls were discovered in a raid on his Virginia home in 2007, Morgan asked Vick where he was on that fateful day.
"I was on the golf course, probably playing one of the best games of my life," he recalled. "I just immediately thought that everything was going to come crashing down."
The lowest point of the fall Vick said was when he told his son he was going to prison for two years. "The only thing I could tell him was that Daddy was leaving," he said. "[It was the] toughest moment of my life, tougher than any football game that I've lost."
In the years to come, Vick says it's more important for him to be understood than to be liked by any of his critics.
"Some people are going to like you, some people aren't. Just for certain reasons that are unexplainable and I won't try to understand," he said. "But I think it's important that I'm understood and people understand in a certain sense, why."