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Sweet Emotion

Local Fans Get Teary-Eyed at Saints Celebration

Gary Fuller had tears in his eyes Wednesday as he relived the greatest moment in Saints history.

Decked out in a logo T-shirt, Fuller watched a video of New Orleans' 31-17 Super Bowl victory against the Indianapolis Colts during the Saints' Championship Tour stop at the Monroe Civic Center.

"I've been a proud supporter ever since they first started," said Fuller, who watched most of the Super Bowl at Sports City Grill in West Monroe. "They started the game off bad, but I never lost faith in them. I knew they were going to come back and win it."

Fuller said he never wore the brown paper bag over his head that made Saints fans infamous for so many years, and he never lost hope that his team would one day make it to the big game. He said when coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees were hired, he knew his dreams were coming true.

And he again got emotional when talking about what that victory really meant.

"I believe this will turn New Orleans and the state of Louisiana around," Fuller said. "The players have gone down to help with New Orleans after Katrina and with the oil. This has really been a challenging time for our state, but as a city and a state we should all come together and be thankful."

Wilma Maglott was also wiping her eyes while watching the video.

Maglott said she waited "forever" for the Saints to get the big win.

"I watched that game at home," she said. "I didn't want anybody around me talking because I just wanted to focus on the game. It was very emotional."

The Saints' Championship Tour kicked off Wednesday with its first stop in Monroe, where the Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl ring were put on display for fans to admire and take photos.

The Halas Trophy for the Saints' NFC Championship victory against the Minnesota Vikings was on display as well, as was memorabilia from Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson and owner Tom Benson.

There were video games and autograph signings from the Saintsations dancers and former New Orleans kick returner Michael Lewis, who is now a community liaison for the team.

"This is giving back to the fans," Lewis said. "A lot of the fans don't get to come down to New Orleans so it's great to let everybody see all the different things. It's nice that you can do something to show the fans that we do appreciate them and to let them feel a part of what we have going on."

Lewis, known by fans as the Beer Man, was the return specialist for his hometown team from 2001-06. After a year with the San Francisco 49ers, Lewis was set to play for the New Orleans VooDoo, but he was given a front-office position when Benson cancelled the arena league team's operations.

With so many years in the NFL, Lewis said he knows how special Saints fans are.

"Without the fans you don't have anything, so giving back to the fans and the community is real special. Most teams that win the Super Bowl do the parade, but as far as this — I don't think they can match this."

Saints VP of Marketing and Business Development Ben Hales said Benson wanted to make sure the Lombardi Trophy wasn't stuck behind glass but was actually enjoyed by the people who made the Super Bowl victory possible.

The tour will go all around Louisiana and will also head to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

"This trophy went in a lot of parades, and the response we got everywhere made us really want to make sure that everybody had a chance to see it," Hales said. "We've got really great, loyal fans here, and we wanted to make sure that they had an opportunity to come share it because it's really just as much their trophy as it is the team's. It's nice to see that the same trophy that Drew Brees was holding on the field is two feet in front of you. It's been kissed a lot, that trophy. It's hard to keep it clean."

For Andy Fowler of Dubach, the trophy is the biggest reason anyone was at the civic center Wednesday.

Fowler, who's been watching the Saints for 34 years "and been mad at them all my life too," said he's been waiting to see the day come for so many seasons.

"It's special, but I think it's special that they're not just going to Louisiana," he said. "They're showing it off. Like Drew Brees keeps saying, they did this for the Gulf Coast, not just for New Orleans but for everybody. Everyone gets a little part of this."

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