METAIRIE, La. - Saints head coach Sean Payton has officially signed his five-year extension with the club it was announced Wednesday.

'I am excited that we have finalized this contract with Sean,' said Saints Owner/Chairman of the Board Tom Benson. 'He has been a great leader for our organization. He and Mickey (Loomis) have built a foundation of success as they have built the roster. We have already begun preparations for the 2013 season and I look forward to getting Sean back in the building as soon as possible, as I know our fans do as well.'

Payton's deal was in flux after it was learned in the middle of the 2012 season that the league had nixed the previous extension over some contract language. The team announced a few weeks ago that they had reached a new deal with Payton after the rumor mill had run amok with the possibility of him being a high-profile free agent coach at year's end.

Payton spent the year away from the game after being suspended by NFLCommissioner Roger Goodell over his alleged involvement in the bounty scandal. It is uncertain when Payton will be allowed to return to the helm of the team, though it should be no later than the week after the Super Bowl.

Ironically, Payton actually enhanced his value during his time away as the Saints floundered without his direction.

'Sean has been a critical part of our success, getting him signed to a long-term deal is very important to our organization and we are pleased to have it finalized,' said Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis. 'We have already begun the process of planning for the 2013 season, turning the page on 2012. We have challenges ahead, but they are nothing we cannot overcome. I know Sean is ready to get back to football in 2013.'

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