The New Orleans Saints 50th season begins Sunday when the Oakland Raiders visit the Crescent City. That means thousands of Mississippians will travel to the Louisiana Superdome and tens of thousands more will watch on TV.

Because of their proximity and also because of the many Mississippi connections through the years, the Saints have long been Mississippi’s team. They’ve trained in Mississippi, both in Hattiesburg and Jackson. Some of their biggest stars (Archie Manning, Deuce McAllister, etc.) have been native Mississippians.

I grew up in Hattiesburg, 100 miles from New Orleans. Back in 1967, we couldn’t believe we were going to have an NFL team in our neighborhood. And we couldn’t wait to see them up close and personal.

Here’s my memory from that first game, Sept. 6, 1967, when the mighty Los Angeles Rams were the Saints’ first regular season opponent.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.