Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Thousands of football fans will pack the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday for the Saints' season opener against the Altanta Falcons and the longtime rivalry means big business for the city.

It is that time of year again. Football is back, the Saints are back and so are fans. Already Falcons fans are flocking to the city in anticipation for Sunday's match up against the Saints.

'With Sean Payton coming back, we wanted to welcome him back to the league with a big fat 'L',' said Falcons fan Lonnis Allen.

'I love the city, all the food, the red beans and rice,' said Falcons fan Anthony Welch, who is taking advantage of the game to make a trip back to New Orleans.

With a destination like New Orleans and the longtime rivalry, Mark Romig, the president and CEO of the New Orleans tourism Marketing Corporation, says this weekend's crowds will mean big bucks for the city.

'The Atlanta-New Orleans game, historically, has done very well for hospitality community,' said Romig.

For the service industry, football season kicks off their busy season. Local businesses say the season is already off to a great start after a successful turnout at this year's Decadence Festival.

'It really has been a good year, a really good year. It looks like New Orleans is back on track,' said Logan Crawford, assistant manager at Cafe Maspero's.

Crawford says that momentum is carrying them right into one of their best and most important weekends of the year.

'It gets kind of crazy in here, everyone is hollerin' 'Falcons' and then 'Saints,' so it's a fun weekend,' said Crawford.

Local businesses like Cafe Maspero say they expect September to stay busy, especially with the Saints playing at home two more times this month. Tourism officials like Romig agree. He says this weekend shows just how important the football season is for local economy.

'I think this year we've got some wonderful weather,' said Romig. 'We gotten several reports from hotels that we are in the 90 percent and higher occupancy level, which is great.'

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