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Fans flood London's Regent Street for NFL festival

LONDON -- If NFL executive vice president of international Mark Waller needed affirmation of his goal of having an NFL franchise in London by 2022, it came on Saturday -- one day before the Raiders and Dolphinsclash at Wembley Stadium -- in the form of the NFL's fan rally at Regent Street.

Thousands of football fans thronged one of Europe's largest shopping districts, which was closed off for the event. Instead of designer clothing worn out of high-end stores, a sea of NFL jerseys inundated the half-mile stretch of road. In fact, in just a short time, it was possible to see fans wearing gear from all 32 NFL teams.

Those fans entertained themselves by throwing, catching and kicking footballs at NFL Experience stations dotted along the street. Younger British children tried their hand at playing football for the first time, while Raiderette cheerleaders showing off their moves halted traffic entirely. The main draw for the fans was the NFL stage, which featured interviews with a handful of Hall of Famers, including Rod Woodson, Bob Griese and Fred Biletnikoff, some of the stars from both teams playing at Wembley and a surprise guest in the form of former Miami quarterback Dan Marino.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr implored local fans to be loud at Wembley on Sunday as the Raiders attempt to create a Black Hole-type experience at their temporary home.

"We are excited to go out and play in front of the fans here," Carr said. "This is our home game, and we want it to be loud."

The biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Marino, though. With many fans in attendance sporting his aqua No. 13 jersey, the Hall of Fame quarterback recalled playing in London during his NFL career in a 1988 preseason matchup with the 49ers.

"I played here in 1988, and it has grown and grown here since then," Marino said, addressing a raucous crowd. "It is an incredible sight to see. It goes to show the level of support there is here, not only for the Dolphins and the Raiders, but for the whole NFL. We thank you for that."

While Marino was the hype man onstage for the crowd, behind the scenes the former 'Fins signal-caller was deep in conversation with the latest player facing the daunting task of filling his shoes in Miami: current passer Ryan Tannehill. The embattled QB faced criticism for his play in a 34-15 loss to the Chiefs in Week 3, then had to endure a controversy of sorts when Miami coach Joe Philbincreated speculation about whether Tannehill would remain the team's starter against the Raiders.

With their promotional duties now completed, both teams can turn their attention to the real matter in hand, which kicks off at 6 p.m. local time.

In the meantime, the ever-growing momentum for an NFL franchise in London continues, and a successful ran rally event -- along with another huge crowd watching the game -- will only intensify it.

*We preview and pick every Week 4 game in the latest Around The NFL Podcast. *

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