By Steve Ginsburg
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Thousands of fans attending a parade honoring the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens were treated to one last dance by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.
For 17 National Football League (NFL) seasons Lewis's pre-game dance got Ravens fans fired up and it was no different on Tuesday when he delighted them with his signature moves at M&T Bank Stadium.
Lewis, who retired after Sunday's 34-31 Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers, emerged from the players' tunnel dressed in jeans and a dark blue overcoat.
The 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker grabbed a piece of turf, kissed it, and delivered his dance. The capacity crowd, most of them dressed in Ravens' purple and back, roared.
"There is no place on this earth that's better than Baltimore," Lewis said. "This city, we believed in each other from day one. From 1996 until now, we believed in each other, Baltimore.
"This was my last ride. And every moment, every time I've ever stepped in this stadium, what I received is pure love ... This team was destined to go on and win the Super Bowl.
"The only way on my last ride to repay Baltimore to give back for all the things that you ever did for me, and all the support you ever gave to me, is bring back the Lombardi trophy to Baltimore one more time."
The players traveled in military-style Humvees, football-themed floats, and flat-bed trucks for the parade, which began at War Memorial Plaza outside City Hall and ended at M&T Bank Stadium.
Thousands lined the route despite the chilly temperatures, and as the procession neared the stadium, the people sidestepped the barriers and walked alongside the vehicles in the street.
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Joe Flacco, who has been on the talk-show circuit and at Disney World in Florida since the game, told the stadium crowd, "Baltimore, we did it!"
"Super Bowl champs, baby," he said. "This is for you guys. Hey, we've been through a lot this year -- a lot of highs, a couple lows. And you guys stood there through it all.
"Just like you always do. You're a special group and we love you. Hey man, it doesn't get any better than this."
The Super Bowl victory was the Ravens' first since the 2000 season.
"I don't know how many more times we can do this, bringing championships home, before Baltimore loses that chip on its shoulder," said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
"I hope it doesn't ever happen."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)