The store ran out of Lewis jerseys but has been moving a lot of "Thanks for the Memories" shirts bearing his silhouette.

Further down Eastern Avenue, at the Baseball Card Outlet and Sports Memorabilia shop, it's been "chaos" since Lewis announced his retirement, said Mike Tanner, who owns the store with his brother. The most popular item has been autographed prints of a photo showing Lewis kneeling over the just-sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger like a hunter with his bagged quarry.

As usual on a game day, Tanner will close early today since most of his customers will not be out and about shopping for memorabilia but in front of their TVs — which is his plan as well.

"Everyone wants to win it for Ray Lewis," he said. "People are optimistic, because of how healthy the team is now. The Broncos are due to lose a game, and we're due to catch a break."

Gibbons, of the Sports Legends Museum, says the Ravens' success over the years, coupled with the Orioles' return to the postseason last fall, should go a long way in turning around the city's undeserved reputation as "second-class."

"I think nationally, despite the fact that we had Johnny Unitas and Brooks Robinson, we were perceived as second-rate. We were Title Town, we were fairly proud. When we lost our football team, that changed the demeanor here. We lost whatever confidence we had. Then the Orioles went to hell in a handbag," he said of the baseball team's 14-year streak of losing seasons.

"If we can be competitive next year," Gibbons said hopefully, "maybe we can lose that chip on our shoulder."

jean.marbella@baltsun.com

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