Ray Rice was all smiles Saturday morning as hundreds of fans cheered on the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl star.
Fans dressed in purple, shouting "We love you Ray!" held up signs and purple balloons while they braved the cold to watch the superstar speak.
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Around 11 a.m., Rice, dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt bearing the words "Rings Don't Lie," appeared to the roaring crowd on the steps of New Rochelle's City Hall building. His mother Janice Rice -- wearing an identical T-shirt -- beamed as she waved.
"I just want to thank you all for turning me into the man I am today," said Rice, who was born and raised in New Rochelle. "We are truly a city of champions. I'm sitting right in front of greatness right in front of my face."
The Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, outscoring the San Francisco 49ers 34-31. Rice, 26, a three-time Pro Bowl running back, led New Rochelle High School to a state football championship in 2003. He was showered with gifts and honoring plaques and praise from local leaders and organizations like the Youth Tackle League.
"It takes a village to raise a child and I was raised by every single one of you," Rice said.
The rally, originally planned for Feb. 9, was postponed when 2 feet of snow fell. New Rochelle officials had wanted to throw a ticker-tape parade for Rice, but he shot the idea down.
"The reason I didn't want a parade down North Avenue was I fell off the float (during a celebration in Baltimore) so I needed somewhere I could stand at," Rice said. "I have the bruise on my knee to prove it."
Other New Rochelle High School athletes also were celebrated, including the football team who took home the state championship in 2012 and the cheerleading squad that won a national title last month.
'A BIG FAMILY'
Patrick Kline, 51, a registered nurse from Riverdale, brought along his two kids -- both clad in purple No. 27 Ray Rice jerseys. Originally from Baltimore, Kline described himself as a "lifelong Ravens fan."
"I'm excited that they're getting into it because it's such a big passion of mine," Kline said. "Rice personifies the efforts of never giving up and I want my kids to see that."
Cybill Charles, 14, a New Rochelle High ninth-grader, kept her eyes fixed on Rice during his 15-minute speech.
"We all feel like the luckiest people in the world," Cybill said. "We're national champions and we see someone like Ray, he came from our hometown and he did this. It's amazing. He makes us feel like we're all a big family."
Danielle Day, 38, hugged her cheerleader daughter Natice Jackson, 15, after the ceremony.
"This just goes to show you all the hard work pays off," said an emotional Day, who shed tears during Rice's speech. "Natice has an opportunity that I didn't have, to be a part of something so big. Look at what they do for these kids. It's surreal sometimes. It's comforting to know she has role models like Ray to help pull everyone together and be in such a supportive community."