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Keeler: Broncos fans, take a bow. You made Empower Field feel like Empower Field again. Loud. Proud.

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Keeler: Broncos fans, take a bow. You made Empower Field feel like Empower Field again. Loud. Proud.

Man, he missed the pizza. The pizza and the smack.

John Ayala and his family parked the family’s gorgeous three-wheel trike in lot E4 at Empower Field a few hours before the Broncos’ home opener on Sunday, as if the pandemic never happened.

About 20 yards away, a large tailgate of about 50 or so New York Jets fans had gathered, hoping for the best but, with a rookie quarterback on the road, knowing better.

Every few minutes, the gang in green launched into their beloved cheer in unison:

“J-E-T …

And, every time, before those 50 got to the “S” in “Jets,” John or his brother or a cousin would walk over to the trike and pull a lever that set off the mother of all horns.

“This is beautiful,” Ayala said of Sunday’s home opener. “It’s being able to share a camaraderie with others who are the same as you — blue and orange.”

“J-E-T …”

Honnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnk!

“You listen to music, get a beer and a shot, have a good time,” John continued. “It’s beautiful, man.”

Especially because, like most Broncos fans, Ayala couldn’t do this last year. And for a guy who grew up partying in the south stands, it hurt like Hades.

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Denver Broncos mascot Miles gets the crowded hyped during the first quarter against the New York Jets at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021.

His wife works for the Department of Public Health. With a newborn due in August 2021, John got every vaccine shot he could. And when Ayala put down a deposit on his Broncos season tickets for 2020, realizing that the odds of actually getting into the building were slim, he took the option to push those seats into 2021.

“I was looking at some of the (first two) games we played away and I was amazed by how many Broncos fans (there were) — the orange was just unbelievable,” Ayala said. “So Broncos Country is hard core. And having Teddy Bridgewater and maybe (general manager) George Paton, that’s gonna be the new chapter in these games.”

The weather was perfect, even if the traffic flow wasn’t. Shutout? Check. 3-0 start? Check. Postseason momentum? Check. The first Broncos game at full capacity since December 2019 managed to squeeze in a little bit of everything, live music included.

A few lots down from John and his family, Sergio Gomez, a native of Barnum West, danced and swayed behind a giant grill in C11, while local band El Pollo Y Su Pandilla — The Chicken And His Gang — played with gusto just over his left shoulder.

This is Denver, Colorado, right here,” Garcia shouted over the music.

This is what Denver is all about. It’s about the Broncos. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. We can all unite for the same thing: The Denver Broncos.”

Scale of 1-10, how much did you miss this last fall?

“Oh an 11,” Gomez shouted, this time with a grin. “An 11.

“Going in that stadium, win or lose, you’re there, supporting the team, supporting the city, supporting the state. It’s about diversity. Everyone comes together when it comes to the Denver Broncos.”

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