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Saints, Colts to play exhibition in Jackson

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; League, state officials finalize deal for Aug. 26 game at Veterans Memorial Stadium By Michael Wallace mwallace@clarionledger.com It's been 10 years since Mississippi last tackled a National Football League exhibition game. That drought will end this summer, when Jackson wraps ...

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Old 03-23-2006, 04:11 PM   #1
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Saints, Colts to play exhibition in Jackson

League, state officials finalize deal for Aug. 26 game at Veterans Memorial Stadium

By Michael Wallace
mwallace@clarionledger.com




It's been 10 years since Mississippi last tackled a National Football League exhibition game.

That drought will end this summer, when Jackson wraps its arms around a preseason matchup that will feature two of the region's biggest stars.

League and state officials finalized a deal Wednesday for the New Orleans Saints to host the Indianapolis Colts in an Aug. 26 game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Gov. Haley Barbour and Saints owner Tom Benson have scheduled a news conference today in downtown Jackson to announce details of the game.

The matchup will feature Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, a New Orleans native and a son of former University of Mississippi star and ex-Saint Archie Manning.

The game also will serve as a homecoming for Saints running back Deuce McAllister, a Morton native who played at Ole Miss and has many business holdings in Jackson.

Neither Barbour nor Benson would comment Wednesday on the exhibition. Veterans Memorial Stadium director Watt Whatley said he would withhold comment until after today's announcement.

But their silence didn't stop the area's football fans from boasting after learning the game was a go.

"I'm probably the first or second biggest Saints fan in Jackson, so I can't wait for this game," said Ridgeland resident Todd Touchton, 36, who has followed the team since 1977. "I always go down to New Orleans to see them play. For them to come to me is just great."

Each NFL team plays four exhibitions every season. The games are played to help veterans work their way into shape for the start of the regular season. The preseason matchups also are used to help coaches determine which aspiring players will make the team for the upcoming season.

The Saints-Colts game has been in the works since Benson and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue visited Barbour in Jackson on Feb. 15 to thank the state for its support after Hurricane Katrina.

Damage to the Louisiana Superdome, the Saints' home stadium, forced the team to relocate to San Antonio for its home games last season.

The Saints are no strangers to Jackson. The team held a scrimmage at Veterans Stadium last summer and routinely sends its players and coaches to town for various rallies and team functions.

The Saints-Colts game will be the first exhibition played in Jackson since the summers of 1995 and 1996.

The 1995 game between the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles drew an estimated 52,000 fans. But attendance the following year for the Jets and Houston Oilers dipped to roughly 35,000.

"I'm going to do my part to make sure a good crowd shows," said Florence resident Raymond Jefcoat, 43. "I'm going to be the first one in line for tickets."

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