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Patriots greeted by throngs of cheering fans

February 08, 2005

BOSTON (AP) - Three silver Super Bowl trophies and the gray sweatshirt-wearing mastermind who won them all took a championship ride through the streets of Boston on Tuesday, passing nearly 1 million screaming fans.

Kids skipped school and grown-ups missed work. Confetti flew and players blew kisses to the crowd.

The New England Patriots took another victory ride through town - their third in four years - to give their sign-waving, slogan-chanting supporters a chance to share in Sunday's 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Jacksonville, Fla.

"It's incredible. It seems very surreal, deja vu, man," quarterback Tom Brady said. "You never get sick of the winning. You never get sick of the fans. I tell you, it's a great place to play."

It was a warm winter day, but coach Bill Belichick still wore his gray hooded sweat shirt, a symbol of his fashion sense and coaching focus: he's too busy making his team look good to bother about himself.

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Coaches, players and their friends and family members rode along the 1 1/2-mile route in World War II-style amphibious duck boats, usually used to take tourists to historic city sites. The Boston Red Sox used them in their championship "rolling rally" last October but, unlike the baseball team, the Patriots didn't go into the Charles River, which was frozen over.

Belichick was in the lead vehicle with team owner Robert Kraft, vice chairman Jonathan Kraft and player personnel director Scott Pioli. The executives each clutched a Vince Lombardi trophy, though they may need help doing it next year.

One fan held up a sign that read "Next Stop Detroit." That's where the next Super Bowl will be held on Feb. 5, 2006, when the Patriots can win their fourth trophy in five years.

"It took me nine years to get my first championship. Now they're coming every year. I could get used to this," said Troy Brown, who played wide receiver, defensive back and returned punts in the Super Bowl.

The crowd was mostly orderly, although several people were led away from the parade route in handcuffs and police said they made 37 arrests. There was no mass gathering of fans at City Hall Plaza, where the Patriots addressed them after the last two championships.

Some players flapped their arms, ridiculing the touchdown celebration of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens. Fans stood on snowbanks and trash cans. They threw T-shirts, posters and other memorabilia at players to be autographed and took photos with cell phone cameras.

Some wanted a smile from their dimple-chinned quarterback. He gave it to them along with three raised fingers, signifying each title.

"Take me to the prom," read one sign directed at Brady.

His girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan, rode on one of the duck boats.

Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, who rode with Brady, tried to address the crowd but his microphone malfunctioned. He smiled and was cheered just the same by youngsters who roared like rock fans.

"It's fantastic," said 11-year-old James Casey, wearing a red, white and blue Patriots jacket. "I got to see the Patriots in person. It's awesome."

Plenty of grown-ups acted like kids, roaring for the city's second pro sports championship in four months.

"It's exciting," Uri Ahn, 36, of Bedford, N.H., said. "It's something you might not see again. It's history. It's a true new dynasty."

The Patriots have won 32 of their last 34 games, including the playoffs. Belichick passed former Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi for the best playoff record, 10-1. And no team has won three consecutive Super Bowls, something the Patriots can accomplish next year.

If that happens, defensive end Richard Seymour's hand might be sparkling more than it was Tuesday when he held up his fist for fans to admire one of his Super Bowl rings. At one point, tight end Daniel Graham and fullback Patrick Pass each held up three fingers for each championship, then raised a fourth.

But, befitting Belichick's obsession with not looking ahead, the focus was on the latest championship and the adoring fans.

"This means more than anything in the world," offensive tackle Matt Light told them. "You guys have been the greatest fans since Day 1. This is the best season of my life."

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Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay and Matt Pitta contributed to this report.

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