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NFL kicks off weekend with Katrina relief efforts

Saints fans got a chance to watch their team open the NFL season
with a win Sunday on large TV screens in the Houston Astrodome and
Reliant Center, which are housing more than 4,000 Hurricane Katrina
evacuees.

"It's to give them a chance to feel a little bit at home,"
said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Joe Leonard, area commander for Houston
shelter operations. "And some of them might actually be Saints
fans."
Added Carlos Packnett, who got out of New Orleans on Sept. 1:
"People need this to feel normal again. It's good to have some
Sunday football."
The Saints won 23-20 at Carolina on a 47-yard John Carney field
goal in the remaining seconds.
At a small bar on Bourbon Street, where a Saints football helmet
was painted on the ceiling, Steve Bartley was among several French
Quarter residents listening to the Saints game on a battery-powered
radio.
"On Sundays, I'm usually at a bar watching the Saints. It would
be nice if we could see them, but this is the best we could do,"
he said.
At the game, any Saints fans entering Bank of America Stadium in
Charlotte was handed worry beads, a New Orleans tradition. Bank of
America contributed $100,000 to hurricane relief.
At the Texans-Bills game in Orchard Park, N.Y., white doves were
released after a moment of silence in remembrance of the Sept. 11,
2001 terrorist attacks and victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Outside Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Dolphins coach Nick Saban's
wife, Terry, led a collection effort to aid Katrina victims that
included cheerleaders, Dolphins alumni, staff and players' and
coaches' wives. Saban joined the Dolphins after coaching at LSU in
Baton Rouge, where the Saints are expected to play some home games
this year.
Inside the stadium, the invocation by a Navy chaplain offered a
prayer for Katrina's victims.
In Kansas City, Senia Shields, wife of Chiefs Pro Bowl guard
Will Shields, and Miss Kansas, Adrienne Rosel, were among those
collecting donations for hurricane victims outside the stadium. The
Chiefs said Friday that players had committed $150,000 to relief
efforts.
Appearing on Fox's pregame show, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue
said beginning Monday the league will look at LSU's stadium as a
future home of the Saints. He is hopeful of announcing something
this week about where the Saints' next three home games will be.
"Every team represents its city and the state where its team
is," he said. "When we've had tragedies in the past -- earthquake
in San Francisco, wildfires in San Diego -- we've kept the team
close to home and they've managed to stay there for the long term.
That is our goal here. That's the reason we're looking at Tiger
Stadium in LSU to have the team play there as often as it can.
"As for the future, I've been reading about the business
leadership, the political leadership determined to rebuild New
Orleans and we hope to be part of that process and to be at the
table."
Back in Houston, there was some good-natured jawing among fans,
some rooting for the Saints, others sure they would lose. There
were even a few bets laid on the outcome.
"This is good. It brings back the Mardi Gras spirit," said
David Spears, who said he was holding onto his cash until next
week. He wanted to size up the team in the first game before
risking any money.
"I lost $20 on just about every game last season," Spears
said.