Broncos' win makes fans feel mile high Denver police try to rein in celebration

Super Bowl Xxxii

January 26, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DENVER -- Church bells rang.

Broncos fans ran from bars in the popular Lodo district and fell on their knees in the streets. Police on horseback stood ready, others in riot gear blocked off roads.

One fan careened crazily down the street, tears in his eyes.

"John Elway," he said, hugging a stranger before rushing on.

John Elway and the Denver Broncos ended 20 years of frustration for themselves and their fans last night, with a 31-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

In Denver, their fans released their pent-up emotions as the sound of victory grew and grew until it echoed down every street, through every wall reaching other Broncos fans and still others who could care less, as they looked up from their dinners in wonder at the sounds of horns, automatic weapon fire, sirens and people cheering.

"We're hoping it won't be like the Stanley Cup celebration two years ago," Denver police officer Brett Willcockson said. "We had a riot that night. We're hoping it stays a fun, happy celebration. But some people are saying the city will burn."

An hour and a half later, several blocks away in the Larimer Square area of town, things became more worrisome. Bonfires were started. Fans hung from wires and walked the wires holding Broncos banners across the street.

And a few blocks farther away, police released tear gas to break up the crowd, and at least one person was injured in a shooting. Police did not know whether the shooting was part of the celebration, but the unidentified man later died.

The celebration started peacefully here early in the afternoon, as fans began coming to McNichols Sports Arena for the "Official Broncos' Party" at 1 p.m.

Many of the 8,000 fans at the arena carried signs that said "Salute That!" and waved them when Elway handed to Terrell Davis for the first of his three touchdowns to get their team on the board.

"Elway salutes his guys when they score," said Marlene Inman, 39, and a Denver native. "It's an in-your-face, take that kind of thing. There's no better team and no better fans than you'll find in Denver."

Out in the streets, they danced and partied into the night.

David McAdams, 22, could hardly believe it still, as he stood in the middle of the street.

"We've been waiting years and years for a championship," he said, a smile hiding the rest of his face. "The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup a couple years ago, but we bought them and didn't have time to fall in love with them. This is the Broncos. This is Denver's team."

Pub Date: 1/26/98

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