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Saints fans celebrate on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans after the Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts for the Super Bowl title on Sunday. ((Patrick Semansky/Associated Press))

Hoarse, hungover and happy, New Orleans residents woke up Monday wondering whether that Super Bowl thing really happened.

In the French Quarter, stragglers from the city's all-night victory party for its NFL team, the Saints, hunted for coffee and beignets as dawn broke, decked out in team jerseys and colours.

Richard Bourland said he came to the city from nearby Gulfport, Miss., hoping to see history made and wasn't disappointed.

The 57-year-old had pulled his first all-nighter in at least "15 years" celebrating the Saints' 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's Super Bowl.

"I came because it is a once in a lifetime event," Bourland said as he sipped strong black coffee. "I wanted to experience a miracle, and I did. I'm still trying to believe it."

Many other fans were also finding it hard to believe the Saints' Super Bowl victory, the first in their 43-year history, had really happened. It was, after all, just their ninth winning season. Disbelief did not prevent them from throwing a huge "Lombardi Party," however.

The team's big season came four years after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 per cent of the city and destroyed thousands of homes and small businesses.

"After Katrina, everyone was hurting," said Derek Stevens, 27, who was still on Bourbon Street at dawn. "The Saints was the one thing we had that was positive, that made us hopeful."

Mardi Gras starts early

Long-suffering fans throughout the city shot off fireworks, danced in the streets and second-lined down the St. Charles Avenue streetcar tracks.

On Monday morning, Bourbon Street crews began working at dawn to clean up the remnants of the street party that began before the game ended and stretched into the new day.

"It was crazy the whole day," said Earl Wheeler, 21, a bartender at one of the Bourbon Street clubs. "It was one really good time. Lots of love going around. But I was too busy to watch the game. I'm going home to do that today."

The victory came a day after New Orleans elected a new mayor and several other city officials. But in the area newspapers, there was little news besides that of the Saints' victory.

The Times-Picayune ran a five-inch headline that screamed, "AMEN." The subhead read, "After 43 years, our prayers are answered."

At a Lakeside News outlet, which usually sells about 100 copies a day of the Times-Picayune, owner Michael Marcello said he had sold 6,000 to 7,000 copies by 9:15 a.m.

"I wish I had some," he said. "I'm out again. This is the fourth time I've run out."

At the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the game was on television in all the dormitories and even in some of the cellblocks where problem prisoners are kept, said prison spokeswoman Cathy Fontenot.

"Normally, they wouldn't have television privileges, but we thought it was such an important game [that] we let them watch this one," Fontenot said.

Traffic was light coming into town Monday, and many businesses expected people to stay home. The public schools had scheduled a full day Monday but planned to let students out early Tuesday to attend a parade planned for the Saints.