SUPER BOWL WATCH: Ravens strike first, Sandy Hook

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Around the Super Bowl and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the game:

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RAVENS SCORE FIRST

The Baltimore Ravens are on the board first, taking a 7-0 lead on the San Francisco 49ers.

Baltimore caught a break when the 49ers were called for a penalty on third down, extending the Ravens' drive. On the next play, Joe Flacco found Anquan Boldin for a 13-yard touchdown.

Flacco has now thrown nine touchdowns in the postseason and no interceptions.

— Nancy Armour — https://twitter.com/nrarmour

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ANTHEM: PIANO AND KEYS

Alicia Keys' national anthem before the Super Bowl was simple:

Just her in a red gown, singing and playing a white piano on the field.

Keys became a trending topic on Twitter after the anthem.

— Oskar Garcia — https://twitter.com/oskargarcia .

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EMOTIONAL KICKOFF

The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have a tough act to follow after an emotional performance by the chorus from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The chorus, which featured 26 children from the Newtown, Conn., school where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed in a shooting rampage Dec. 14, were joined by Jennifer Hudson for "America the Beautiful" before the start of the Super Bowl. The kids came out first, dressed simply in khakis and white polo shirts, a green ribbon pinned to the right side of their shirts. Several were smiling as the Super Bowl crowd rose to give them a standing ovation. They sang the first chorus, their voices high and sweet with innocence, before Hudson joined them.

Hudson's mother and nephew were shot to death five years ago by her former brother-in-law.

It was a powerful image, and Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody appeared to be crying as he listened with his head tilted back, his eyes closed. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh stood with his left arm draped over the shoulder of his daughter, Allison.

The children were given another ovation as they left the field.

— Nancy Armour — https://twitter.com/nrarmour

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NO SQUIRREL DANCE

Ray Lewis was one of the last Baltimore Ravens to enter the field, but he didn't do his signature Squirrel dance.

He skipped out, then walked to the bench and took a seat.

The San Francisco 49ers took the field second.

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EARLY AD WINNER: LONE RANGER

Chalk up one early ad victory this Super Bowl: Disney's "The Lone Ranger."

The film's title and actor Johnny Depp became worldwide trending topics on Twitter after a commercial teasing a trailer before the game began.

The movie is set to hit theaters this summer.

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STORM RECOVERING

Hannah Storm has kept a busy schedule in New Orleans, but the ESPN anchor admits she's still trying to adjust while recovering from a propane grill accident that left her seriously injured.

"I've been really tired, and at times, sometimes in pain," Storm says.

Storm was using her propane gas grill at home in December when the flame when out. When she went to relight it, there was an explosion. Storm suffered second-degree burns on her chest and hands and first-degree burns to her face and neck. She lost her eyebrows and eyelashes, and roughly half her hair.

With makeup and hair extensions, it's hard to tell she was hurt. She's back anchoring and is finishing up a documentary on basketball player Sheryl Swoopes for the network. She also has an NBA primetime interview series, "Face to Face with Hannah Storm," set to air before the playoffs.

She said she feels grateful to be in New Orleans to spread a message of grill safety.

"Super Bowl Sunday is the No. 1 grilling day of the winter, so it's been a real blessing to be able to sort of pass that message along and hopefully help people be safe while they're having fun," she said.

— Nekesa Mumbi Moody https://twitter.com/nekesamumbi

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FINAL PREGAME HUDDLES DONE

Both the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are back in the locker rooms after huddling on the field one last time during warmups.

Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis led his team in its huddle as San Francisco kicked some last-minute field goals.

The 49er huddled up roughly 5 minutes later.

— Nancy Armour — https://twitter.com/nrarmour

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INACTIVES FOR RAVENS, 49ERS

Neither the Baltimore Ravens nor the San Francisco 49ers have any last minute changes to their starting lineups for the Super Bowl.

Both teams have several players inactive for the game.

Inactive for Baltimore: CB Chris Johnson, CB Asa Jackson, S Omar Brown, OL Ramon Harewood, LB Adrian Hamilton, WR Deonte Thompson and DT Bryan Hall.

Inactive for San Francisco: QB Scott Tolzien, S Trenton Robinson, RB Jewel Hampton, LB Cam Johnson, G Joe Looney, DT Ian Williams and DT Tony Jerod-Eddie.

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49ERS, RAVENS GET LOOSE

The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens are warming up on the field of the Superdome in New Orleans.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh traded a handshake, hug and some brief words at midfield as players stretched and got loose.

Kickoff is scheduled for about 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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SUPERDOME THEN AND NOW

AP national sports columnist Tim Dahlberg was in the Superdome ago after Hurricane Katrina nearly eight years ago. He shares his thoughts as the arena hosts the NFL title game:

I wanted to go see Tom Benson's suite, but it was occupied. One of the benefits of owning the New Orleans Saints is a suite at this Super Bowl.

I had been there before, just after the Superdome was emptied of refugees from Hurricane Katrina. It was dark and the stench was almost unbearable, with the liquor all gone and the toilet filled and overflowing.

A few of New Orleans' finest who had ridden out the storm in the dome with about 25,000 people gave me a tour, guided by flashlight. There were holes in the roof, litter everywhere, and a smell of human misery that was almost indescribable.

They told me of bodies lying in the stench, of a man who jumped to his death from one of the upper levels rather than endure the ongoing misery.

Parts of New Orleans have been rebuilt in the wake of the 2005 storm that wreaked such havoc. The Superdome itself was repaired, at a cost of hundreds of millions.

In the dome on Sunday the stage is set for America's biggest sporting event. There's not a lot of ambiance in the dome because, well, it is a dome, but some 70,000 people will sit in air conditioned comfort with food and drink only a few steps away.

Benson's suite, I'm sure, is even more lavish than it once was.

My guess is they refilled the liquor cabinet, too.

— Tim Dahlberg — https://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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THIS IS RAVENS TERRITORY

The New Orleans Riverwalk has become the Ravenswalk.

The walkway lining the Mississippi River is the site of one of the weekend fan fests, and fans of all teams are there listening to music, eating New Orleans food and just enjoying the warm, sunny weather. But a section across from Jackson Park has turned into a gathering place for Ravens fans. A Baltimore radio station broadcasting from a riverboat on the section across from Jackson Park, and the whole area is a sea of purple.

— Nancy Armour — https://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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QUICKQUOTE: JOHN HARBAUGH

After arriving at the Superdome on Sunday, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh told CBS that he and his brother, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, haven't spoken much this week.

"We have each other in our hearts but we're going against each other today," the Ravens coach told a reporter during the network's pregame show.

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TICKETS, ANYBODY GOT EXTRA TICKETS?

There are still tickets available for the Super Bowl, but it's going to cost you.

A lot.

Three hours before the game, one fan outside the Superdome was selling a single ticket for the terrace level — aka the nose bleed section — for $1,500. That's almost double the face value.

Tickets were a little cheaper on NFL Ticket Exchange, the NFL's official ticket reseller, but not by much. Terrace-level tickets were going for $1,250 to almost $2,200. By comparison, tickets on the first level were practically a bargain, ranging from $2,400 to $2,600.

— Nancy Armour — https://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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PIZZA WEARY

Pizza Hut is thinking some people will be over regular pizza after the Super Bowl. So it's hoping tiny new pies will be enough of a temptation.

The chain is introducing "pizza sliders" on Monday.

Pizza Hut says each slider is roughly the equivalent of a slice, meaning a person might eat two or three. A pepperoni slider has about 260 calories, compared with 250 calories for a slice of a medium pie and 370 calories for a slice from a large pie.

It's not clear whether they have a higher profit margin than regular pizzas.

— Candice Choi

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SECURITY TIGHT, BUT NOT LIKE 2002

Alongside the Superdome runs Poydras Street, a main eight-lane artery into and out of the heart of downtown New Orleans.

There's no auto traffic on it on this Super Bowl Sunday, however. The entire stretch bordering the Superdome property is filled with a maze of metal barricades draped with purple and gold Super Bowl banners, as well as security tents.

Fire department personnel are stationed near hydrants, and volunteers, emergency medical staff and security forces have are visible at every turn.

Farther away, Concrete barricades prevent vehicle traffic from getting within two blocks of the stadium.

The Super Bowl is deemed a national security event, but not quite on the same level it was the last time the game was in New Orleans in 2002. That was the first Super Bowl after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, so security was run by the Secret Service. There were tanks in the street and snipers on roofs.

This year, the public plazas surrounding the dome look a little more festive and a little less militarized.

— Brett Martel — https://twitter.com/brettmartel

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PHELPS THE RAVEN

Michael Phelps missed out when the Baltimore Ravens won their first Super Bowl title.

Not this time around. No way.

Phelps, who retired from swimming last summer after winning a record 18 Olympic gold medals, is in New Orleans to cheer on his hometown Ravens.

"It's destiny," Phelps told the AP. "Ravens by seven."

When the Ravens won the 2001 Super Bowl, Phelps was a teenager just getting started on his record-breaking career. He remembers being at a meet in France with his longtime coach when Baltimore routed the New York Giants 34-7.

"I slept through the alarm to wake up and watch the game," Phelps said. "It was already 34-7 when I woke up. I was like, 'All right, we're done. I can turn it back off.'"

He went back to bed.

Phelps is attending the game with his mother, sisters and several friends.

He hopes his buddy, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, can go out a champion — just like Phelps did in London.

"This time, I'll be there for the whole game," Phelps said. "I'll be able to watch Ray hopefully finish his career and his last game the way he wants to."

— Paul Newberry — https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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AGAINST THE HOMETOWN GRAIN

Despite growing up in District Heights, Md., San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman has no allegiances to the Baltimore Ravens.

And no, it's not because he was a Washington Redskins fan.

"I was a Cowboys fan," Bowman said. "Being the youngest in the house, being the baby, my mom, my brother, my aunts — everyone liked the Redskins. So I decided to go to the rivals with the Cowboys."

— Nancy Armour — https://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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DAHLBERG ON SAFETY

The latest piece from AP national sports columnist Tim Dahlberg asks: Could football end up killing itself?

It's Dahlberg's take on the current state of safety in the NFL, and where Commissioner Roger Goodell says things are headed.

An excerpt:

On Sunday perhaps the biggest audience ever to see a Super Bowl will gather in front of televisions for parties of their own. The game has become America's unofficial national holiday, its tradition of chip eating, beer drinking and commercial watching as deeply ingrained in the country's fabric as turkey and stuffing.

We celebrate the game even as it takes a brutal toll on those who play it. Football is a hurt business, and the biggest cheers on Sunday will be for those who deliver the biggest hits.

So remember when you jump and down and holler and scream that former players, some of whom entertained us in Super Bowls past, are suffering in the worst possible ways because of the beating their brains took on the playing field.

That the NFL is finally waking up to the crisis is commendable. That it took this long is deplorable.

It's hard to comprehend, and it may be the ultimate paradox. But football itself could be the one thing that kills the NFL.

Read the full column here: http://bit.ly/YuGUA1

— Tim Dahlberg — https://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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TEAMS ARRIVE AT SUPERDOME

The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have arrived at the Superdome.

The teams left their hotels in buses roughly 3½ before kickoff was scheduled Sunday.

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(NOT) PLAYING FAVORITES

Jack and Jackie Harbaugh know where they'll be after the Super Bowl.

"There's going to be one winner and one (son) that's going to be totally disappointed," Jack Harbaugh said. "Our thoughts go to that one that will not experience the thrill of victory."

With Baltimore Ravens coach John facing little brother Jim's San Francisco 49ers, the thrill of the NFL title game also puts Jack and Jackie in an awkward spot, knowing one son will celebrate the highlight of his career while the other will be absolutely gutted.

They got a "dry run" last season, when John's Ravens beat Jim's 49ers. On Thanksgiving Day.

"We opened the door to the Ravens locker room ... guys jumping up and down, the smile on John's face. They were just ecstatic," Jack Harbaugh said. "Then you realize that you're not needed here. So you walked across the hall to the 49ers locker room ... and finally saw Jim, all by himself in this room, just a table and a chair. He was still in his coaching outfit. His head was down in his hands and you looked into his eyes and you realized that this was where you're needed as a parent. Every single parent can identify with that.

"That thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. On Sunday night, we're going to experience both of those great emotions," Jack Harbaugh said.

— Nancy Armour — https://twitter.com/nrarmour

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ADS BONANZA

With 30-second spots going for as much as $4 million this year, the Super Bowl is advertising's biggest stage. Companies that shell out that cash want the more than 111 million viewers expected to tune in to remember their spot come Monday.

Most advertisers have released their ads already, trying to get a head start on capturing the buzz on social networks.

But some companies are still planning big reveals, including M&Ms, Chrysler, Oreo and BlackBerry.

"What we see on the night of the game is really important," said Kelly O'Keefe, professor at a professor, creative brand management, at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter.

— Mae Anderson — https://twitter.com/maetron

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GEARED UP FOR THE GAME

Any fan can show their love for their favorite player by wearing a jersey. Four Baltimore Ravens are doing it with entire outfits.

In addition to the heavy painted leather coats he and his fellow "Ravens Posse" members are wearing, Rick Bowlus (far left) has linebacker Ray Lewis' number and face painted on his jeans.

— Nancy Armour — https://twitter.com/nrarmour

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RATINGS HOPES

Three years running, the Super Bowl has set a TV viewership record. CBS is hoping that happens again on Sunday.

Last year, NBC's broadcast hit an average audience of 111.3 million people.

But ratings are a mere point of pride for CBS heading into kickoff. The ads have already been sold (some at more than $4 million a pop), so the network can now only hope to put forth its best broadcast and redirect as much of the Super Bowl glow toward its other programs and its cable sports network.

Telecasters Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will call the game while more than 60 cameras cover the action — with at least one keeping an eye on the parents of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

— Jake Coyle

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NO RG3 IN THE HOUSE

There's only one way Robert Griffin III wants to go to the Super Bowl.

As a player.

The electrifying Washington Redskins quarterback came to New Orleans to pick up The Associated Press 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year award. But he won't be going to Sunday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, planning to watch it with his family instead.

"I'm a firm believer you don't go to the Super Bowl unless you're playing in it," Griffin said.

— Nancy Armour — https://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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HERE COME NINER BETTORS

After heavy betting on the Baltimore Ravens, sports betting professionals and last-minute casual bettors in Las Vegas and around the world are heavily swinging toward San Francisco.

The 49ers were favored by 5 points when betting action started two weeks ago, meaning San Francisco bettors need them to win by at least two field goals to collect. But the spread encouraged lots of bettors to take Baltimore, pushing the line down to 3½. Now, San Francisco supporters have moved the line back up to 4 points in most sports books and 4½ in others, according to gambling expert R.J. Bell of Pregame.com.

Bell says that a few days ago, nearly two-thirds of the bets taken in Las Vegas and online sports books offshore were on the Ravens. It's close to 50-50 now and the 49ers are closing the gap quickly in the hours before the game.

Adjustments to the line are encouraging bettors on the fence to pick sides.

"The moves are taking a lot of money right now," Bell said.

An estimated $10 billion is expected to be wagered on the Super Bowl, with less than 1 percent of that coming from legal sports books in Nevada, Bell says.

— Oskar Garcia — https://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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VAMOS CUERVOS

Rodolfo Rodriguez is in New Orleans all the way from Monterrey, Mexico, to cheer on his "Cuervos," the Spanish name for the Baltimore Ravens.

He's predicting a 28-24 Baltimore victory over San Francisco.

Rodriguez spent part of his weekend on Super Bowl Boulevard at Woldenberg Riverfront Park, waving toward a cruise ship arriving on the Mississippi River into the Port of New Orleans near the large Roman numerals for the Super Bowl.

— Julio Cortez — https://twitter.com/juliocortez_ap

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LIL WAYNE ROOTING AGAINST SF

The San Francisco 49ers prevented Lil Wayne's favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, from going to the Super Bowl. So the rapper wants the Baltimore Ravens to get a little revenge on his behalf.

"I'm salty about the team that beat us, so I gotta root against them, and that team is the 49ers," he said.

But his desire isn't all based on bitterness.

"Who doesn't want to see (Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis succeed? And also who also doesn't want to see (49ers wide receiver) Randy Moss get his first ring as well?" he said.

"I'm kind of iffy about this game. I don't mind the outcome of it, I think either or, it's gonna be beautiful for both of them."

Lil Wayne plans to be in a suite for the game — after all, it's in his hometown. His friends and family all wanted tickets.

"I had to pay for those tickets and my team isn't even playing in that game — ah man, that hit the pockets kind of hard," he laughed.

Lil Wayne is well-documented sports fanatic.

— Nekesa Mumbi Moody — https://twitter.com/nekesamumbi

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BROTHERLY ADVICE: AARON RODGERS

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh are hardly the only high-profile siblings who've squared off in their arena of expertise. The AP is asking some others who can relate how to handle going against a family member in the Super Bowl.

As the middle of three brothers, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers knows a thing or two about high-stakes competitions with siblings. It wouldn't matter if he was facing one of his brothers in the backyard or the sport's biggest stage.

"I'd want to beat them pretty bad," the 2011 NFL MVP said. "I really would."

Less than two years separates Rodgers and his older brother, Luke, now on Fuel TV's "Clean Break," and the two are "very competitive."

"My older brother and I had a lot of great matchups, great one-on-one games. We competed a lot in sports," Rodgers said.

There's still a chance Rodgers could wind up facing one of his brothers on the field, maybe even at the Super Bowl. Jordan Rodgers led Vanderbilt to its first nine-win record since 1915 last season and is now preparing for the NFL draft.

"I hope so," Rodgers said of the prospects of a "Rodgers Bowl." ''And I hope we would win if that ever happened."

— Nancy Armour — https://twitter.com/nrarmour

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TWITTER BUZZ BUILDING

Americans on Twitter are already buzzing about the Super Bowl with about 6 hours until the game kicks off.

Four terms related to the game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are trending in the United States: "Happy Super Bowl Sunday," ''49ers," ''Beyonce" and "Ray Lewis."

None, however, are trending worldwide yet.

— Oskar Garcia — https://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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GUN AD

Washington lawmakers watching the Super Bowl in the beltway are getting a 30-second visit from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control group.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 900 mayors in 48 states, paid six figures for the local spot, according to a Bloomberg spokesman.

The ad calls on lawmakers to pass rules requiring background checks on guns. It is narrated by children with "America the Beautiful" playing in the background.

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QUICKQUOTE: ANDREW LUCK

Andrew Luck has high praise for San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, his old coach at Stanford. Even if he did pick an unusual way to express it.

"I always enjoyed playing under coach Harbaugh. He always brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm," the Indianapolis Colts quarterback said. "He was the type of guy you'd want in an alley fight with you. You could tell he wanted to win just as bad as the next guy."

— Nancy Armour — https://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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EDITOR'S NOTE — "Super Bowl Watch" shows you the Super Bowl and the events surrounding the game through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across New Orleans and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.

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