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Fans fill Raymond James Stadium to honor Bucs
Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. -- Thousands of red-clad Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans poured into chilly Raymond James Stadium on Monday night for a chance to welcome home their Super Bowl heroes.

Still reveling a day after the Bucs' 48-21 rout of the Oakland Raiders, they waited in long lines that snaked around the 65,000-seat stadium to get into the free celebration.

A huge turnout was also expected for a city-sponsored parade set for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"It feels like a new world in Tampa," said Tony Lanza, 82, a season-ticket holder for the past 15 years. "I think we deserve to see the players, and the players love to see the crowd here."

Norman Wright, 23, waited outside for more than two hours before the gates opened at 6:30 p.m.

"How often does this happen?" he asked. "It's a long time coming."

Long-suffering Bucs supporters waited 27 years for a championship. The frustration turned into elation as they rushed to stores across the region to buy anything commemorating the Super Bowl triumph.

When the Buccaneer Heaven souvenir store opened its doors Monday morning, 400 to 500 fans were already waiting in line.

Inside the store, the first shipment of 750 "locker room" T-shirts -- the same ones worn by Bucs players after Sunday's game - were gone in the first 45 minutes at $20 each.

"There are a lot of folks who've got to have it, and they've got to have it today," store manager Brad Cohen said.

Danny "Big Bop" Bethel, in his usual game-day outfit of Bucs jersey, jester's hat and painted face, arrived at 10 a.m. in his customized Bucs minibus and volunteered to help control crowds at the door. Fans shook his hand and clapped him on the back and they filed inside, as a hip-hop song about the team called "Welcome to Ray Jay" pulsed from speakers outside.

"There were like 65 people at my house (Sunday night)," said Bethel, 39. "It was a crazy time. We went out and did fireworks on the front lawn."

Such demonstrations were common across the region. Moments after the game ended, car horns began honking and people spilled into the streets around Raymond James Stadium and in the Ybor City entertainment district.

There were some traffic snarls around the stadium, but police reported no major problems.

The Tampa Tribune's Monday edition featured a full-page photo of Bucs coach Jon Gruden hoisting the Super Bowl trophy, with the single-word headline: "Yes!" The St. Petersburg Times front said "Champs" over a photo Gruden embracing Bucs' defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

The Tribune's press run was 431,000, a 125,000 increase over a normal Monday, said circulation director David Kirkman. The Tribune's sports department is also publishing a book on the Bucs' season.

The Times printed more than 29,000 bulldog editions for Sunday night, and 609,000 copies of the paper came off the presses Monday morning, said spokeswoman Anthea Penrose, who said that normal circulation for Monday papers is in the 300,000 range.

"They were going as fast as we could get them out there," she said.

Up in Tallahassee Monday, Gov. Jeb Bush took time out from a news conference to congratulate Bucs fans and express relief in the win, which will earn him a Mexican dinner from California Gov. Gray Davis.

Bush recently lost a bet on the Fiesta Bowl to Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. Because Ohio State beat Miami for the collegiate national championship, Bush will have to wear an Ohio State jersey at the next National Governor's Association meeting.

"I was about ready to stop betting governors on football games," Bush said.