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Ring Around The Champs

Running back Terrell Davis said he "felt like a kid at Christmas." Wide receiver Rod Smith said "everybody just kind of fell out of their chairs." Offensive guard Mark Schlereth said "there were a lot of mouths dropping in that room."

Denver Broncos players and coaches received their diamond-laden Super Bowl XXXII championship rings on Friday in a 30-minute private ceremony at Bronco headquarters, the one that they all said they wanted to win for quarterback John Elway.

After a few speeches, players and coaches were told to open up the boxes containing the personalized rings.

Smith called it "a special day for this entire organization because it took so long to get it done. It took John 15 years. You really can't describe the excitement in that room. It was almost like we were about to go play the Super Bowl game. It's a wonderful day, especially for the people who've been here for years and have taken all the verbal abuse from back in the old days."

The Broncos finally won a Super Bowl, beating Green Bay 31-24 last Jan. 25, after four failures beginning 20 years earlier.

The rings contained the player's or coach's name, 16 large diamonds signifying the Broncos' 16-4 record, as well as replicas of the Lombardi Trophy and Qualcomm Stadium, site of the Super Bowl. In the center of the ring is the Broncos' horse logo, with rare Australian orange diamonds as the horse's mane.

"I didn't expect it to be this beautiful," safety Steve Atwater said. "This has been worth the wait, more than worth the wait."

The NFL paid the full cost of 125 rings for the Broncos. The rings cost $4,800 each, bringing the league's tab to $600,000. Broncos' staff members will receive rings at a separate ceremony next month.

"I don't know how many diamonds are in it because there are a lot of small diamonds, too," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said.

Virtually every member of the 1997 Broncos' team was there, including Elway, who announced on Monday he would return for his 16th season, and offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman, who hasn't announced whether he will return or retire.

Offensive guard Brian Habib, who signed a free-agent contract in the off-season with Seattle, attended, but linebacker Allen Aldridge, who signed with Detroit, had a prior commitment.

"There was a great air of anticipation, a lot of emotion, a lot of whooping and hollering," Bowlen said of the presentation. "I told our guys the ring goes with you forever. It is really your own personal trophy.

"I think this brings closure to what we accomplished in the '97 season. This is our last hurrah as far as our Super Bowl win. It comes at a good time a month and a half before the opening of our training camp. Today we et to celebrate. Tomorrow we get to go back to work."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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