Former NFL star Michael Vick is back in Virginia to plead guilty to state dogfighting charges, a move he hopes will expedite his return to society and, eventually, pro football.

The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback is being held in protective custody at the Hopewell Regional Jail, superintendent Darnley Hodge said Friday.

Vick arrived Thursday afternoon from the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., where he's serving a 23-month sentence for a dogfighting conspiracy conviction. He was brought back by the Fugitive Unit of the Virginia State Police, which already had two other prisoners to pick up in the midwest, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

Vick is isolated from the jail's approximately 1,200 inmates to avoid disruptions, but will be treated like any other prisoner, Hodge said.

Vick, 28, is due to appear Tuesday in Surry County Circuit Court, where he's expected to plead guilty to two felony counts in a deal with prosecutors that calls for a suspended sentence and probation.

The plea would resolve his last pending criminal charges, and his lawyers hope would make him eligible for early release from prison into a halfway house designed to ease his return to society.

Only prisoners with no outstanding charges are eligible to participate in the program, which transfers prisoners into Residential Reentry Centers as much as six months before their scheduled release date. Vick is scheduled to be released from Leavenworth on July 20, 2009, according to the Bureau of Prisons Web site, 20 months to the day since he reported in advance of his Dec. 10, 2007, sentencing to begin serving his time.

The release date apparently assumes time off for good behavior.

What remains unknown is when, or if, Vick will be allowed to resume his NFL career. He was suspended indefinitely by league commissioner Roger Goodell, who has not said whether he will ever allow Vick to play again.

Vick's lawyers attempted last month to get permission for him to make his plea by videoconference, but Judge Samuel Campbell denied the request.

Vick was convicted of the federal charges in August 2007 when he admitted bankrolling a dogfighting operation at a home he owned in rural Surry County. He also admitted to participating in the killing of several underperforming dogs. Three co-defendants also pleaded guilty in the case.

The state charges — beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and engaging in or promoting dogfighting — each carried a possible prison sentence of five years, but Vick's legal team and Surry County Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald Poindexter agreed to the plea deal.