Colts return to frigid Indy and rally at Dome


Tuesday, February 6th 2007, 7:16 am
By: News On 6


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ About 40,000 Indianapolis fans showed up to thank the Colts for their Super Bowl run and all the players wanted to do was praise their boisterous supporters.

A frenzied crowd descended on downtown Indianapolis and filed into the RCA Dome for a homecoming rally Monday night to celebrate the Colts' 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in the NFL championship. The fans chanted ``dee-fense, dee-fense'' and basked in the city's first major pro sports title in more than 30 years.

``You guys are the 12th man,'' defensive end Dwight Freeney told the crowd during the rally.

The Colts, who finally found a defense in the playoffs to complement Peyton Manning's potent offense, returned to Indianapolis late Monday afternoon, stopped off at their training facility and boarded buses for a trip back downtown and a frigid, bone-numbing parade to the Dome.

Most of the fans waited inside the Dome, although hundreds went back out onto the streets as the parade approached. Many of them shared triumphant shouts and high-fives with the players who were riding atop the slow-moving trucks and floats.

Inside, the fans were just as loud as they were when the Colts left two weeks earlier with the AFC championship.

``This is remarkable,'' tight end Dallas Clark said. ``I didn't know Indianapolis had this many people. You guys are the greatest.

Many of the fans were wearing Colts blue. Many held signs such as ``We love our Colts'' or just a simple ``Thank You.'' Two giant inflatable balloons resembling Colts players flanked a stage that was set up on the floor of the Dome. Amid a barrage of camera flashes from the stands, many of the Colts _ coach Tony Dungy, too _ brought out their own cameras to record the moment.

``You guys are awesome,'' Dungy told the crowd. ``We had a team party (in Miami) ... but we were looking forward to coming home. This is more than we could have ever expected. Thank you for this turnout.''

Manning, the MVP of the Colts' win in rain-soaked Miami on Sunday night, also thanked the fans, as well as Dungy and the entire organization.

``It sure feels good to be back in this Dome after playing in that weather last night,'' Manning said. ``On behalf of the players, we want to thank the greatest fans in the world.''

Hunter Smith, the team's punter, also praised the fans and thanked Manning and the Colts' offense for making him ``the least-used person at my position in the history of the game.''

The Colts earned their first title since the 1970 season, when they played in Baltimore, but the victory over Chicago gave Indianapolis its first title in any major sport since the Indiana Pacers won their third ABA championship in 1973.

Fan Roger Fairchild, a construction worker from Brownsburg, helped build the RCA Dome.

``I spent a lot of cold days in here before the roof was on. This is great,'' he said.

The Colts will play one more year in the Dome before moving into the new Lucas Oil Stadium, which is expected to be completed in time for the 2008 season.

``I know at times I wondered if it would happen in this building when they started building a new stadium,'' Fairchild said. ``It's highly likely they can pull it off again.''