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From popes to piano men expected at Yankee Stadium for World Trade Center prayer service

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NEW YORK (AP) _ From popes to piano men, Yankee Stadium has been used often in its 78 years for purposes other than baseball. On Sunday it will be the venue for an interfaith prayer service for the more than 6,000 people killed or missing in the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani described the planned ``Prayer for America'' service as a way to ``give the families of victims and those affected by the tragedy an opportunity to come together, worship together and gain strength.''

Cardinal Edward Egan, Imam Pasha and other Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, as well as Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki, are scheduled to address the crowd, expected to fill the stadium to capacity.

Yankee Stadium seats 57,500, but the number can be expanded with temporary seating on the field. Simulcasts are also scheduled at three nearby minor league stadiums so more people can participate.

The service originally was planned for Central Park, but it was moved because of security concerns.

``Given the enormous strain on the police, the National Guard and other officials in the city, the idea of having a million people, although beautiful, would not be a good idea,'' the mayor said Thursday.

To protect people attending the service, everyone entering Yankee Stadium must have a ticket, and there will be a ban on bags, backpacks, umbrellas and bottles. The Federal Aviation Administration also extended a new three-mile ``no-fly zone'' around major sporting events to Sunday's service.

Giuliani said the prayer service was intended ``mostly for families and those directly affected by the tragedy.'' The tickets were being issued through selected police precincts and Manhattan's Family Assistance Center.

In 1948, the stadium was the place where Yankee great Babe Ruth lay in state, and a brief pre-game service was held there for catcher Thurman Munson, killed in a plane crash in 1979.

In historic boxing title rematches, Joe Louis beat Max Schmeling there in 1938 and Muhammad Ali defeated Ken Norton there in 1976. Pele played soccer for the New York Cosmos in the stadium in the early 1970s. Billy Joel, U2 and Pink Floyd have all performed there.

Billy Graham preached in Yankee Stadium in 1957. Former South African President Nelson Mandela addressed a rally there in 1990. And during the first-ever papal visit to the United States in 1966, Pope Paul VI held Mass in the stadium, an event duplicated 14 years later by his successor, John Paul II.
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