Few of Johnson's former friends or acquaintances had heard from him in years.
In his last public comments in May 1999, he talked about his descent into alcohol abuse with Atlanta television reporter Ken Rodriguez.
Rodriguez made the trip to Florida after reading a newspaper story about how police, responding to a 911 call, had talked Johnson out of jumping off the bridge.
Johnson said in an interview at a homeless shelter in Punta Gorda, Fla., that his alcoholism was so bad that he didn't want to see his family and that the separation led to increased despair.
“I decided my daughters would be better off without me,” he said. “That was probably the biggest thing that kept me down.”
Johnson made the remarks at the Bread of Life Mission, a homeless shelter.
Rodriguez aired part of the interview on Fox5Atlanta earlier this week in reporting the player's death.
Claiming at the time that he had “cried so many tears,” Johnson said he wanted to assure his daughters that he loved them and that he was sorry.
“It's almost unbearable to spend 20 years and do that (drinking) every day,” he said. “It'll lead to a lot of things that don't make any sense.”