Originally created 01/25/00

Teams, fans arrive in chilly Atlanta

ATLANTA -- Atlanta greeted a pair of Super Bowl combatants with a cold shoulder Monday afternoon.

The St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans rode into town on an emotional tidal wave after clinching the National and American Football Conference championships a day earlier. The teams were greeted by a mixture of sleet, rain, ice, snow, freezing temperatures and a single-digit wind chill factor, but it did little to derail the kickoff to the weeklong celebration.

"We just wanted to get to the Super Bowl," said Rams linebacker Mike Jones. "Who we play has nothing to do with it."

Tennessee fans, still delirious over their stunning 33-14 victory at Jacksonville on Sunday, took the early lead in frenzied support by flooding downtown hotels and standing on street corners looking for tickets.

Many were in Jacksonville on Sunday, and Atlanta was a convenient pit stop for the long ride home. Interest among Titans fans has ticket brokers scrambling for seats inside the spacious Georgia Dome for Sunday night's kickoff.

"When Tennessee got in, things really got crazy around here," said one broker, who was asking as much as $2,000 for each ticket. "I can sell every ticket I get my hands on. And I can just about name any price."

Tickets for Super Bowl XXXIV, a game so big it requires Roman numerals, are $325 and $400 each. The prices are set by the National Football League.

The Rams arrived at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport on their TWA charter at 2:07 p.m. The Titans came in aboard a Northwest Airlines charter at 8:10 p.m. Both teams will conduct a brief media session today before

starting their workouts for Sunday's season finale. St. Louis will train daily at the Atlanta Falcons headquarters in Suwanee, while Tennessee will work out at Georgia Tech.

The host city seemed well-prepared for the crush of as many as 100,000 football fans expected in town.

Not only was traffic minimized Monday by the weather, but Atlanta seemed to be on its best behavior. Street lights were decorated with colorful Super Bowl banners, the streets were clean, and hotel lobbies were festive.

At the massive booth inside NFL headquarters at the Hyatt Regency promoting the host city, workers handed out T-shirts, video tapes and folders full of information. The city eagerly promoted the area sports teams and figures: Falcons, Hawks, Braves, Thrashers, Atlanta Motor Speedway, University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Evander Holyfield and wrestler Bill Goldberg.

A couple of the players who hit town Monday won't need a chamber of commerce tour. Tennessee cornerback Dainion Sidney played high school football at nearby Riverdale, and St. Louis safety Devon Bush was part of a Falcons' roster that qualified for Super Bowl XXXIII a year ago.

The Rams (15-3) and the Titans (16-3) met in the regular season, and Tennessee won 24-21. Nonetheless, St. Louis has been installed as a seven-point favorite.

"There is no advantage to having played them because they played us and they beat us," said Rams coach Dick Vermeil. "We went away from that ballgame thinking we beat ourselves and turned the ball over.

"But they created problems for us. (Titans coach) Jeff Fisher does a great job there. We will be playing on a neutral field. It will be a heck of a game."

Better yet, it will be indoors -- far away from the weather's cold shoulder.

ReachDon Coble at doncoble@mindspring.com.


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