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Temperatures were in the single digits as the celebration began, but the Packer diehards were undaunted. Fans in the front row of the stadium traded high-fives with the players and reached out to touch the championship trophy as coach Mike McCarthy marched past with the hardware hoisted high over his head.
The Lombardi Trophy carries special meaning in Green Bay because it's named for Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, who led the Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowls.
"I will never forget this," said Amanda Lee, 33, of Milwaukee, who wore the No. 12 jersey of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP. "I got to touch the trophy, but I couldn't actually feel it [because her hands were so cold]. I touched Aaron Rodgers' pinky! I'll never wash my hand again."
The celebration capped a party that has been going nonstop in Green Bay since Sunday, when the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Arlington, Texas, to win their fourth Super Bowl title and first since 1996. The ceremony shone a spotlight on the decades-old love affair between the team and the NFL's smallest-market city.
On Sunday night, thousands took to the streets to celebrate amid an explosion of green-and-gold fireworks. On Monday, tens of thousands of hoarse but giddy fans lined the roads from Austin Straubel International Airport to Lambeau to cheer on the team's motorcade as it returned to the stadium.
The 56,000 tickets for the official "Return to Titletown" ceremony yesterday sold out within hours on Monday. Fans from far and wide were in the stadium's parking lot early Monday morning, grilling brats, throwing down beers, and tossing footballs in a final tailgate party — never mind a wind chill of 14 below.
"The weather's fine. I can barely feel it," Ken Hampp, 23, of Appleton, said in the Lambeau parking lot as he sipped a Budweiser, before it froze. "That's my favorite thing about winter. You can just stick your beer in the snow."
The stadium opened two hours before the ceremony. The atmosphere inside was electric as fans watched highlights from the past season on the stadium's giant television screens set to a rousing orchestral soundtrack. The crowd waved world champion flags, erupted into chants of "Go Pack Go!" and danced to House of Pain's "Jump Around" and the Village People's "YMCA."
Team officials saved Rodgers for the last of the individual team introductions. With a towel wrapped around his head like a scarf, Rodgers yelled into the microphone, "What's up, Titletown?" The crowd responded with a roar.
"We did it together! We brought that title home! We love you!" Rodgers said. "I tell you what, Green Bay, we're going to be right here next year doing the exact same thing!"