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Brees leads major New Orleans Carnival parade

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One of the most accurate arms in the NFL had no trouble finding receivers Sunday night.

Thousands lined the streets to catch small, foam footballs thrown by Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees while he served as monarch of Bacchus, one of the biggest parades of the Carnival season that culminates in Mardi Gras.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback threw 10,000 black and gold footballs, along with the usual beads and doubloons, from his perch atop the float that was desined to look like a Roman chariot. Brees dressed as the Roman god of wine in a short gold and red tunic, gold boots and cape and a crown of gold grape leaves.

A cadre of police officers and parade officials had to accompany Brees from the limo that dropped him off at his float. He was accompanied by his wife, Brittany, who wore a white gown and gold crown. An eager crowd chanted his name and the familiar “Who Dat” cry of Saints fans.

The usual Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold were replaced along the parade route with the black and gold of the Saints jerseys worn by thousands.

“I missed the Saints parade,” said Henry Exterstern, 50, of New Orleans. “No way I was going to miss him this time.”

It was the second parade this week for Brees, after the Super Bowl victory parade Tuesday that celebrated the Saints’ win over the Indianapolis Colts a week ago.

Sunday’s parade appeared to get an attendance boost from the presence of Brees.

“This is a mad house,” said Jennifer LeBlanc, 34, who said she sees the parade every year. “This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen. And every one is having a great time.”

Brees began throwing the beads and footballs as soon as he boarded the float, giving a thumbs up to people who caught them.

As the float began to move, Brees took the microphone and chanted, “Who Dat, Who Dat.”

“We love you New Orleans,” he shouted. “Hail Bacchus.”

The final weekend of Carnival saw dozens of parades roll throughout the New Orleans area. Another huge parade, Orpheus, is scheduled for Monday. More parades will roll on Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, when businesses will also be closed and the French Quarter and the parade routes will be crowded with revelers.

It all comes to a close at midnight Tuesday as police clear Bourbon Street and the heavily Catholic city welcomes Lent.

© 2010 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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