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Fans fill the windows of a parking garage along the parade route.
Fans fill the windows of a parking garage along the parade route. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

BALTIMORE - For 17 years, linebacker Ray Lewis was at the center of organized chaos on the football field.

Linemen grappled in front of him. Defensive backs sprinted behind him.

Just two days after winning Super Bowl XLVII in his final game, Lewis, the longtime vocal leader of the Ravens defense, found himself in the middle of a crazy melee once more.

While surrounded by police on horseback and delirious cheering fans who rushed past overwhelmed security, Lewis stood in a military Humvee and soaked in the atmosphere during the Super Bowl victory parade Tuesday through the streets of Baltimore.

Lewis was in the parade's final vehicle, a journey that started at City Hall and ended at M&T Bank Stadium.

Several Ravens players spoke to thousands of cheering supporters in front of City Hall, Lewis included.

"This is two [titles] for me," Lewis said while thousands of fans roared their approval. "The city of Baltimore, I love you forever."

All of the prominent Ravens were there. A weary Joe Flacco, who appeared in a Walt Disney World parade in Orlando just 24 hours prior, got his own Humvee to ride in.

So did Ed Reed, who sang Eddie Money's "Two Tickets to Paradise" and grasped the shiny silver Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy for all to see prior to the parade in a joyous ceremony at Baltimore's City Hall.

Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin eventually got his hands on the Super Bowl trophy. He clutched it tightly and took the daring step of walking the parade route, bringing hundreds of fans within a few feet of the coveted prize.

Boldin was surrounded by dancing spectators, some of whom had overturned barriers and decided to make themselves part of the parade. Baltimore City Police did little to stop them.

The scene was particularly wild around Lewis' float. Six police on horseback needed to escort his Humvee. Otherwise, the group of fans who sprinted into the parade route may not have let the vehicle pass.

Lewis raised his hands out to the side, looked skyward and laughed as his ride approached Camden Yards.

The entire parade route was surrounded by fans wearing purple and black standing behind barriers and taking advantage of the rare chance to snap photos and videos of their favorite players.

The spectators brought Ray Lewis Fat Heads, Ray Lewis jerseys and Ray Lewis signs. And they cheered loudest when Lewis appeared, albeit obscured somewhat.

"We saw everybody we wanted to see," said Pam Lloyd, of Lutherville, who brought her sons Bryce, 9, and Blake, 6, to see the parade. "The only one that was tough to see was Ray. He had lots of horses and people around him by the time he went past us."

Lloyd said she let her children have the day off from school so they could enjoy the parade.

She wasn't the only parent who made that choice.

Joey Linn, a seventh-grader at Mount Airy Middle, was in the middle of the fray. His parents wanted him to have the rare chance to see a Super Bowl parade.

Glen Messier, of Westminster, brought his son Colin, 5, to the festivities. They were among the more than 85,000 Ravens fans who crammed M&T Stadium for a ceremony after the parade. It was Colin's first visit to a professional stadium, one that Glen said he hopes his son can remember for the rest of his life.

Ericka Sallee remembers the last Super Bowl parade and celebration when the Ravens last won the title 12 years ago. Her daughter Erin, 13, did not. But she'll remember this one. Erin was there with her father Walter, her brother Walter and her friend Lindsay Seipp.

"It was loud for the last Super Bowl parade," Ericka said, "but it was no comparison to today."

Charity Reed, of Taneytown, had absolutely no regrets for having her daughters Carly and MaKenna miss school to take part in the celebration.That's because the Reeds,who are loyal Ravens fans, are in the process of moving to Tennessee.

They were positioned on the M&T Stadium turf field for the post-parade celebration.

"I'm sure the Ravens will win more Super Bowls," said Reed, who indicated she would like to see the Ravens play at the Tennessee Titans once she moves. "But it was the last chance we will be able to celebrate right here with them."

Stephanie Elliott, of Westminster, took her two children directly to M&T Bank Stadium rather than catching the parade. She feared she wouldn't be able to get into the stadium later on if she didn't go in early with her kids Makenzie and Travis Miller.

Turns out she was right. M&T Bank Stadium actually reached capacity for the free celebration and fans were turned away.

Traffic stacked up on roads outside Ravens Stadium, particularly when many major thoroughfares around the Inner Harbor closed before 11 a.m. for the parade. Amity Monroe, of Manchester, originally planned to work out of her Baltimore office.

When it became obvious that wouldn't happen, she bailed onto the Maryland Transit Administration Metro Subway and went to catch the parade. She was hoping for autographs from her son. She didn't get any. But she did get a close-up photo of Ray Lewis as the parade approached Camden Yards.

She won't get that chance again. There may be other Super Bowls, but the retiring Lewis won't be on those teams.

He went out on top, though, much to the delight of the ecstatic fans who crammed Baltimore Monday.

"We promised you that we were going to New Orleans for one thing," Lewis said, "and we got it."

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