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Broncos Pay Tribute To Slain Teammate

With an overflow crowd packing the church, the Denver Broncos on Saturday filed past the open casket of Darrent Williams, the promising cornerback who was gunned day in a drive-by shooting on New Year's Day.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was among those at Great Commission Baptist Church, which is not far from where the 24-year-old Willliams grew up. More than an hour before the service, the line to get inside the 2,500-seat church stretched around the building.

Just before the service, Broncos players and staff members, accompanied by relatives and friends, entered through a side door and walked past the coffin. Many wiped away tears to say goodbye to "D' Will."

The church was filled with more than three dozen flower arrangements, many of them orange and blue, the team colors. Two of Williams' jerseys and a large picture of him were displayed. A Broncos helmet was at the front of the church and Williams' white No. 27 jersey was draped over the altar. Williams was dressed in a black pinstriped suit with an orange tie and white shirt.

Among the honorary pallbearers were Broncos defensive backs Champ Bailey and John Lynch.

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, one of the funeral speakers, said bringing Williams' killers to justice was his "No. 1 goal right now." Police have no suspects in the slaying in downtown Denver but did make an arrest Friday night of a man they want to question.

"It is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life," said Bowlen, whose mother died two weeks ago. "Looking back at Darrent's career, the thing that's really disturbing me is that we had a great young player and a player that was not only a great player on the field, he was a great guy off the field. And he was not just liked, but he was loved by his teammates."

Denver coach Mike Shanahan also spoke at the service, which was open the public and expected to last three hours. A private graveside service was to follow.

Also at the church was Ashley Lelie, a former Broncos receiver who feuded with management over his contract before being traded to Atlanta last summer.

On Friday night, thousands of mourners filed past Williams' open copper-colored casket during a two-hour memorial service.

Several mourners spoke at the visitation services, recounting how Williams never got bigheaded about his success and always tried to help others succeed, encouraging them to go to class, stay out of street gangs and make something of their lives.

Others said they would work to fulfill his dreams of starting sports camps for kids, especially in his South Fort Worth neighborhood.

"Down here, D is no superstar, D is 'Little D,"' 25-year-old cousin Monte Wayne said. "Everybody respected Little D because everybody in the 'hood wants to get out the 'hood.

"Right now, we're hurt. But at the same time, we know what it could have been. We know he's got a good legacy, the two years he had in the NFL. Man, I'm just going to miss those Sundays. It's just hard, bro."

Williams was killed and two other passengers wounded when at least 14 shots were fired into the stretch Hummer that left a New Year's Eve party at a nightclub. Williams was struck once in the neck.

Williams is survived by a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, who live in Fort Worth.

Another NFL player from Fort Worth, Thomas Herrion of the San Francisco 49ers, died after a preseason game at Denver in 2005 and is buried nearby.

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