NFL: Baltimore celebrates Super Bowl champ Ravens
The city of Baltimore welcomed their Super Bowl-winning Ravens home with a raucous party on Tuesday, with defensive star Ray Lewis taking centre stage after the triumph in his final NFL game.
As the Ravens faithful flocked to the parade and rally, US President Barack Obama offered his congratulations in a phone call to head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome.
According to the White House press office, Obama "commended the Ravens on an unbelievable year and for the steadiness the team displayed through the end" and said he lookied forward to congratulating the team in person at the White House.
Thousands of fans lined the streets leading to the Ravens' stadium, where an overflow crowd were able to see Lewis do his trademark "squirrel dance" on the turf one last time.
Lewis is retiring after a 17-year NFL career capped in storybook fashion with a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47 on Sunday in New Orleans.
Quarterback Joe Flacco also received plenty cheers for his Most Valuable Player performance.
Safety Ed Reed offered Lewis a little musical accompaniment with his rendition of Eddie Money's "Two Tickets to Paradise" and the familiar chorus of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" during the rally.
For most fans, however, Lewis was the main attraction. The 37-year-old has spent his entire NFL career with the Ravens and was the only player remaining from their first Super Bowl triumph 12 years ago.
"There is nothing in the world, there is no place on this earth, that is better than Baltimore," Lewis told the adoring throng. "We believed in each other from day one, from 1996 to now.
"The only way on my last ride to pay Baltimore back for everything you did for me and all the support you gave to me, was to bring back the Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore one more time. I love you, Baltimore. Baltimore! Forever my city."
Reed's turn at the podium included a poke at the 49ers.
"Who's got it better than who?," he said - a reference to 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh's famed team rallying cry of "Who's got it better than us?"
Harbaugh, of course, is the younger brother of Ravens' head coach John Harbaugh, who wrapped up the festivities by leading the crowd in a chant.
"Our team, I'm talking about all of us, one of the keys was our determination," the coach said. "We played with incredible determination and resolve.
"And judging by how hard it was to get into this stadium, I would say that's true about our fans, too. We're on the parade coming down here, and every cranny, every sidewalk is full.
"Every opening where it opens up, every grassy knoll is packed with Ravens fans. They broke down the barriers behind Ray Lewis and mobbed the streets, right? They filled the streets.
"The city's going crazy! For the Ravens! The world champion Baltimore Ravens!"
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