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QBREES9 01-31-2010 09:58 PM

Saints in Super Bowl Is No Mirage
On the first day of February, the New Orleans Saints will be preparing for a football game. Think about that for a while: The team once disparagingly called the Aints whose fans wore bags on their heads are heading to South Florida to play in the Super Bowl.

Historically one of the NFL's biggest flops, the Saints (15-3) are at the top of the NFC. If they overcome the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday they will own their first championship.

Of course, they already own the undying loyalty of New Orleanians, based as much on their roles in rebuilding the Big Easy after Hurricane Katrina's devastation in 2005 as on their football prowess.

"I think that prior to coming here (in 2006), you can't appreciate maybe the relationship or how close the team is to this city," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Logistically ... the players here are closer to and living more amongst the community just because of the layout here in this region. But there's been such a long-faithful fan base.

"And then after something as devastating as Katrina, to have the team be part of the rebuilding process and have the success certainly, I think, helps the spirits of everyone involved. And I think that all of us now that have been here that aren't from here feel that and appreciate that and appreciate the true Saints fans that go back to the late '60s. It's pretty special for them."

But the Saints also have become American idols with just about everyone except Colts fans and the oddsmakers.

And even some folks rooting for Indy (16-2) to win its second title in four years have a strong appreciation for the Saints.

"I lived in New Orleans 39 years and I'm very proud of what the Saints have done," said Archie Manning, the first great Saints player and the father, of course, of four-time MVP Peyton Manning. Peyton happens to be Indy's quarterback and the man the Saints must slow down to have any chance for the first title in their 43-year existence.

Saints in Super Bowl Is No Mirage - ABC News

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