DENVER — Redskins coach Mike Shanahan received a hero's welcome Sunday in his first game in Denver since his firing by the Broncos five years ago.
More than 75,000 Broncos fans got to their feet before kickoff to salute the man who brought the city its two Super Bowl wins in his 14 seasons as head coach.
The Broncos showed a 32-second tribute to Shanahan on their giant video screen in the south end zone before kickoff. Shanahan waved to the crowd afterward.
Then, it was back to business.
Only this time, Shanahan was on the east sideline looking into the sun.
More than an hour before kickoff, Shanahan shared a private moment on the field with his former QB John Elway, now the Broncos' executive vice president, with whom he won two rings in the late 1990s.
Only five players remain on the Broncos roster from Shanahan's time in Denver, including three — Champ Bailey, Ryan Clady and Chris Kuper — who are out with injuries. The others are linebacker Wesley Woodyard and kicker Matt Prater.
Bailey called it a sad day in Denver when Shanahan got fired, "but it comes with the territory, it's just how this business is."
Shanahan, who was once dubbed "coach for life" by team owner Pat Bowlen, went 146-91 with seven playoff appearances from 1995-2008. But he won just one playoff game after Elway retired in 1999 and didn't reach the postseason in his last three years in Denver, where he also spent seven seasons as an assistant.
This actually marked Shanahan's second homecoming in Denver.
His first came on Sept. 26, 1988, when he a rookie head coach of the then-Los Angeles Raiders after serving four seasons as an assistant with the Broncos. His Raiders fell behind Denver 24-0 at halftime that night only to rally for a 30-27 win on Chris Bahr's 44-yard field goal in overtime, a game Elway said afterward was "the worst loss I've ever had."
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