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Sports heroes, fans turn out for final day of Tom Benson visitation

Saints Head Coach Sean Payton arrives at Tom Benson's visitation. (FOX 8) Saints Head Coach Sean Payton arrives at Tom Benson's visitation. (FOX 8)
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

Scores of people turned out today at Notre Dame Seminary to bid farewell to former New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson in public and private visitations. Among them were fans, judges, and sports legends.

Public visitation ended at 1 p.m. on Thursday with crowds perhaps slightly larger than they were Wednesday.

They came from all walks of life to pay respects - sports heroes, Saints fans and, for the first time in 30 years, a papal visit at Notre Dame Seminary from the Pope of Saints Nation.

“This team, he kept here and helped keep the whole city together," said mourner Lionel Alfonso.

There were also Saints legends from as far back as the team's founding. 

“I did Coach under Mr. B and he would come in and say, 'Hey Danny Boy,’ and Ditka would ask me if I minded that. I said he owns the team he can do anything he owns the team,” said former Saints receiver and coach Danny Abramowicz.

Also paying an emotional visit was former Saints kicker and NFL Hall of Famer Morten Anderson, who remembered being with Benson at his induction ceremonies.

“He was laughing, happy. That’s all I want to remember him by, dancing in the Dome and doing the Benson Boogie, a life well lived,” said Andersen. 

A life well lived which impacted lots of New Orleanians including the judge who presided over Benson's competency trial in 2015.

“It’s the end of an era. He took over the team and started a whole different culture,” said Orleans Parish Civil Court Judge Kern Reese.

The culture Benson created continues to be celebrated at Notre Dame Seminary. A private funeral set for Friday at St Louis Cathedral. Benson was 90 years old.

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