Wayne ready to face hometown New Orleans Saints

INDIANAPOLIS -- Reggie Wayne is a lifelong fan of his hometown New Orleans Saints.

Those loyalties are on hold this week as his Indianapolis Colts begin their Super Bowl defense Thursday against the Saints in a nationally televised game.

"Whenever you play against your hometown, you want to go out there and you want to put that extra (effort) into it," the Pro Bowl wide receiver said earlier this week. "So for my family, my friends, and for the people (in New Orleans) who may have heard of me, but don't know me, it's going to be a big game."

As for his family and close friends who still live in the New Orleans area, he says they'll be cheering for the Colts.

"They better be. I'm paying their bills, too," he joked. "Whenever you're playing against your hometown, you just get pumped up. And that's the way I'm going to feel when we get out on the field Thursday night. I can't wait to get out there."

The John Ehret High School graduate and standout player at Miami, Fla., has become a top NFL receiver, although he's sometimes overlooked because of the accomplishments of Marvin Harrison. But that could be changing for Wayne.

The Colts' 2001 first-round draft pick earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after the 2006 season by hauling in a career-best 86 passes for 1,310 yards (also a career high) and nine touchdowns.

Wayne also scored the Colts' first touchdown in the Super Bowl, catching a 53-yard pass from fellow New Orleans native Peyton Manning midway through the first quarter. Indianapolis went on to hand the Chicago Bears a 29-17 loss, giving the franchise its first Super Bowl victory since 1971, when the team was in Baltimore.

This week will mark the second time Wayne will face the Saints in a regular season game. He had three catches for 26 yards in the Colts' 55-21 win in 2003.

Manning had a personal-best six touchdown passes in that game, but none to Wayne. He hopes to rectify that Thursday night in Indianapolis.

"What it all boils down to is that this is a big game," he said. "I feel like it's going to be like the AFC championship game. The exposure and the excitement and stuff like that. We've definitely got to come out with our best performance."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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