By Phuong Le
The Associated Press
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The mood in Seattle was electrified as the parade featuring the NFL champions began near the Space Needle and made its way to CenturyLink Field, the home of the team.
At a ceremony inside the stadium, the team thanked its loyal followers — the 12th Man — capping a day of boisterous celebration that drew an estimated 700,000 revelers to Seattle.
Players were introduced by the order of their jersey numbers and ended with No. 3, quarterback Russell Wilson, who walked onto the field pumping the Lombardi Trophy in the air to thunderous applause.
“Our plan is to win another one for you next year,” Wilson said later.
Coach Pete Carroll led the crowd in a “Seahawks! Seahawks!” chant and said the team will be back.
“We’re just getting warmed up, if you know what I’m talking about,” he said.
Nick Sutton watched the parade from Westlake Center and considered it a highlight when he threw a football to one of the players who threw it back to him.
“It’s surreal. It’s hard to believe. Seeing this now, it’s finally sinking in,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of fans lined the streets of downtown Seattle early in the day and cheered as the players rolled by.
Thousands of students apparently skipped school to attend. Seattle Public Schools said more than 25 percent of the district’s 51,000 students were absent in the morning.
By comparison, about 5 percent were absent the day before.
The school district also said 565 teachers were absent, far more than usual.
Port Angeles and Port Townsend school officials said they didn’t know how many students were out of school Wednesday but that they hadn’t noticed a large number were absent.
“This is a historical event, once in a lifetime. To not show up would be blasphemy,” said Jesse Lake, 36, a carpenter from Port Orchard, who stood in the packed parking lot outside CenturyLink Field to greet the team as they arrived.
Shawn Cooper and Marlana Studebaker of Covington staked out a spot hours before the parade started and displayed supersized photo cutouts of Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman, prompting many fans to stop and take photos.
“This was a long-awaited win. It’s well worth the wait,” Cooper said.
“They’re years ahead of their time, which makes me believe there’s another one coming.”
Dakota Heaphy, 20, and friend Ellie Hergert, 20, drove all night from Cheyenne, Wyo. — more than 1,400 miles away.
“My boss is a Broncos fan and said we kicked their butts and deserved to go,” Hergert said.
Revelers packed the 2-mile route, wearing blue and green wigs, waving flags, scarves and signs, and breaking out into song and dance.
The National Guard chauffeured many of the players in Humvees and other military vehicles under blue, sunny skies in cold temperatures.
Elected officials rode along in amphibious vehicles used to take tourists around the city.
Players enjoyed the celebration as much as the fans.
Running back Marshawn Lynch sat on the hood of a vehicle carrying the Sea Gals cheerleaders, who included Port Townsend native Brita Guthrie.
Lynch tossed Skittles — his favorite treat — into the crowd.
Other Seahawks players threw jerseys and T-shirts to fans while waving blue “12” flags as a sign of gratitude.
Boisterous fans observed a “moment of loudness” at 12:12 p.m. Crowds also gathered in Spokane, Olympia and elsewhere in the state to celebrate the first championship in the 38-year history of the franchise.
Many fans had camped out overnight to reserve front-row seats along the route, braving freezing temperatures. Others perched on window sills and balconies, climbed trees and pillars, or sat on sturdier shoulders to get a better view.
At Westlake Center, smartphones and cameras were thrust into the air whenever players rolled by.
Seattle city officials asked the public to keep cellphone use to a minimum to keep lines free for emergency use. There were some reported difficulties with 911 calls getting through, said Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the mayor.
Chris Hoops, a sales worker from Everett, and his school-aged daughters left home at 7 a.m. to get a good spot.
The girls, 11-year-old Emily and 8-year-old Bella, were bundled in sleeping bags at his feet. They warmed up when they were asked whether they were sorry about missing school. They shouted “No!” in unison.
“I like the Seahawks,” Emily said. “They were really good this season.”
AP reporters Tim Booth, Donna Gordon Blankinship, Gene Johnson, Mike Baker and Manuel Valdes contributed to this report.