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With food, music, and celebration, Mercer University and its Macon supporters welcomed back football Saturday after a 72-year break.

Tailgating was in full swing by mid-afternoon. 13WMAZ's Elise Brown said a couple of thousand people were marking the historic day with food and drink at the campus parking lots.

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Under a tent, the Kappa Sigma fraternity was cooking up hot dog and hamburgers.

Junior Bentley Huggins said, "The Mercer spirit, the unified environment, the return of football, makes this day great."

Outside the stadium, tackling dummies were set up as a challenge for kids.

And in nearby Mercer Village, there was a festival atmosphere as businesses greeted some rare weekend crowds.

Mercer officials and business people hope those crowds will keep coming back on autumn Saturdays.

Melina Hettiaratchi, a junior and vice president of the Student Government Association, said months of work went into making the Mercer kickoff a success.

She said, "For me, this is most exciting because we have worked so hard this summer to get here. It's great seeing this all come together on a day that is going down in Mercer history. "

Shortly after the players entered the stadium, the fans entered the sold out game.

"Everything's running real smoothly," said Sheriff David Davis.

The game kicked off with a show by an all womens' skydiving crew and a coin toss by Pappy Boynton, who played for Mercer the last time they had football in 1941.

In the end, Mercer beat Reinhardt 40-37.

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