Super Bowl excitement builds toward kick-off

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The kick-off for the Super Bowl was hours away, but crowds in Baltimore Ravens purple and San Francisco 49ers red were tailgating or just hanging out near the Superdome.

After nights of star-studded parties and concerts, Sunday was all about the big game.

Under almost cloudless blue skies and tight security, some chowed-down at tailgate parties while others tossed footballs around in the streets around the stadium.

Many fans who didn't have Super Bowl tickets planned to watch the NFL's championship game from the French Quarter and bars and restaurants across the city. Many hosted Super Bowl parties at their homes.

Some took in the last few hours of the NFL Experience, the huge theme park set up for football fans at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

On Saturday, concerts and attractions in the French Quarter and along the Mississippi Riverfront kept fan busy. Many partied until the early hours Sunday on Bourbon Street.

Police reported no major violence tied to visitors in town for the game.

But on Saturday night, one man was the victim of a pickpocket who took his family's Super Bowl tickets.

Police said the unidentified victim and his family had just left Harrah's Casino, near the French Quarter, at about 11 p.m. He was carrying seven Super Bowl tickets in an envelope in a rear pants pocket, officers said.

Investigators say a man in a jogging suit and dark knit cap followed the family. The suspect walked up behind the unidentified victim and took the envelope.

Police said the suspect met four other men and two women on nearby Canal Street and the group left the scene.

Investigators say they have surveillance video of the alleged pickpocket.

On Sunday, more than 3,000 children had the opportunity to get a lesson in flag football from current and former NFL stars.

"This has been great for the kids," said Vincent Impastato of Abita Springs, La., as his sons, ages 8 and 11, played flag football with the pros.

Though lines were long for many special events tied to the Super Bowl, many fans didn't seem to mind.

"It's an experience of a lifetime to be here for this," said Ravens fan Alison Curley of Silver Spring, Md., who drove to New Orleans with her husband and two children for Super Bowl. The family has two tickets to the game, "so two of us get to go and two of us get to eat beignets," Curley said with a laugh.

Meiangelo Taylor and his group of 49ers fans didn't have tickets to the game but they were taking in the fanfare every other way they could.

"We've been to Bourbon Street, took pictures at the Supersome, ate at Mandina's. We're having the best time," said Taylor, who couldn't get a room in the city and is staying on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. "We're driving in every day, and it's not bad. It's more than worth it."

Taylor, 35, said he lives in Memphis, Tenn., but is originally from San Francisco.

"I'm a 49ers fan for life," he said. He visited the NFL Experience Sunday afternoon, where he posed for pictures with a 49ers jersey and helmet. He and some friends planned to take in the fanfare going on outside the Superdome before kickoff.

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