LAS VEGAS — His hands cuffed to his belt, his legs shackled, O.J. Simpson shuffled to the front of a courtroom Wednesday morning after four years in prison, testifying in an effort to overturn the kidnapping and robbery conviction that sent him to state prison years after he was acquitted of the double murder that made him notorious.
Simpson cut a far different figure than he did during the ‘‘trial of a century’’ in Los Angeles in 1995 or as the American hero football player he had once been. At 65 — ‘‘nearing 66,’’ Simpson said, almost plaintively, his voice clearly audible across the small courtroom — he is grayer, balder, slightly stooped, and heavier.
Yet Simpson was amiable and unruffled, smiling and even joking as he answered queries about the confrontation in a hotel room here five years ago that led to his conviction on robbery and kidnapping charges and a sentence of up to 33 years in prison.
Simpson said he was at the hotel room trying to peacefully reclaim personal items stolen from him and put on the lucrative sports memorabilia market. He also remarked on the outsized celebrity he has been, the object of polarized fascination since his transformation from a football star and Hertz pitchman to a man accused of the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles in 1994. He was acquitted of those charges in 1995.
When he was asked about the $350,000 he paid to a lawyer who represented him in the original robbery trial here — one of the grounds of the appeal is that his lawyers were incompetent — he just shrugged.
‘‘I thought it was kind of expensive,’’ he said. ‘‘But I’ve spent a lot of money on lawyers in the past. This was nothing.’’
On Wednesday, O.J. Simpson was, in effect, giving the testimony he never gave in his 2008 trial, when he was convicted of being one of a gang of men who barged into a hotel room and stole sports memorabilia, including many items that came from Simpson.
Simpson said that he had gone to the hotel room to retrieve his personal belongings, including signed footballs and what he had thought were family photographs.
He said that upon entering, he saw one of his friends there who, he said, had stolen material from his home. And he said, despite testimony to the contrary at his earlier trial, there had been no discussion of using weapons in taking back his property. ‘‘It was my stuff,’’ Simpson said. ‘‘I followed what I thought was the law. I didn’t break into the room. I didn’t beat up anyone. I didn’t try to muscle anyone.’’