DENVER (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of cheering, orange-clad Denver Broncos fans lined the city’s streets on Tuesday for a parade and rally to welcome home the team after their upset victory in Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers.
A roar from the sun-splashed crowd went up around noon when the first fire truck, carrying Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Von Miller and quarterback Peyton Manning, kicked off the parade through downtown Denver.
The Broncos captured their third NFL championship on Sunday with a stunning 24-10 victory over the favored Panthers behind a stifling defense, led by linebacker Miller, who stymied Carolina’s vaunted high-powered offense
Molly Nichols, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from the Denver suburb of Parker, secured a front-row spot along the parade route with her parents and aunt after getting an excused absence from school.
“My favorite player is Von Miller, so it was really great to see him,” she said.
Also at the head of the parade was Annabel Bowlen, wife of team owner Pat Bowlen, who was absent from the festivities as he battles Alzheimer’s disease.
A city spokeswoman said officials could not provide an estimate of the crowd size, but planned for a throng of “hundreds of thousands.” She noted that the number could swell to nearly 1 million, well over the city’s population of almost 664,000, as fans poured in from the suburbs.
Denver has had a love affair with the Broncos since their inception in 1960, even though the team failed to post a winning season in its first 13 years of existence.
The sentimental crowd favorite was Manning, who at age 39 became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl and who many observers believe will retire on top of the football world.
Addressing the crowd at the end of the parade, Manning credited his teammates for allowing him to garner his second championship, the only quarterback to win that honor with two different franchises.
“We’ve got a great culture in our locker room,” he said.
The loudest cheers were saved for Miller, who forced two fumbles by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton that led to two Denver touchdowns.
Miller gestured to his teammates, who flanked him on stage hoisting the Super Bowl trophy.
“All these guys helped to get me here,” he said, adding that the team is posed to make a run for a second title next season. “Back-to-back, right?”
Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler