Booted into Mint-9, launched Synaptic and ran all updates and after a reboot all seems well. No more hangs or pauses. Got Compiz Fusion running with lots of effect. Videos play great, etc. So it appears my ATI Radeon X1950 Pro AGP is now working as it should. Not sure what the specific fix was (I'm guessing a kernel update) but I'm glad it's working.
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tim@Linux-Mint9 ~/Desktop $ inxi -Gx
Graphics: Card ATI RV570 [Radeon X1950 Pro] X.Org 1.7.6 Res: firstname.lastname@example.org
GLX Renderer Mesa DRI R300 (RV560 7280) 20090101 AGP 4x x86/MMX/SSE2 TCL GLX Version 1.5 Mesa 7.7.1 Direct Rendering Yes
BTW, anyone know why they did away with the mark all upgrades button in Synaptic? Kind of annoyed that I had to create a custom filter to do what used to be a simple mouse click. What's the point of making something harder?