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Conference championship games receive most viewers since 1982

NEW YORK -- Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. A New York team and the city of New Orleans.

A long list of intriguing storylines -- and two close contests -- earned huge television ratings for the NFL's conference championships Sunday. The games drew the most viewers in 28 years, averaging 52.9 million people, up 34 percent from last season.

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The dramatic NFC championship attracted 57.9 million viewers, the most since the San Francisco 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys on "The Catch" in 1982. The Saints' overtime victory over Favre and the Minnesota Vikings on Fox was the most watched non-Super Bowl program since the series finale of "Seinfeld" 12 years ago.

The fast national rating of 30.6 was the highest for a conference championship game since Green Bay Packers-Cowboys in 1996. In New Orleans, the game drew a 63.2 rating and 82 share, the highest local rating ever for an NFL postseason game.

The Indianapolis Colts' victory over the New York Jets on CBS drew 46.9 million viewers, the most for an AFC title game since New England Patriots-Miami Dolphins in 1986.

Ratings represent the percentage of all households with televisions tuned into a program, and shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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