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Falcons fever taking flight

By Ed Brock

On Friday morning Kristi Haun was teaching her class at Jonesboro Middle School about earthquakes, but she was already wearing her black and red.

That's because when Haun isn't teaching she's a cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons football team, and this weekend's game against the Philadelphia Eagles will determine if Haun will get to cheer at Super Bowl XXXIX.

"I'm very excited," Haun said, adding that of course the Falcons will win this Sunday. "We have to."

Originally from Mobile, Ala., 25-year-old Haun's been teaching at the school for about three years, and while she's been cheerleading and dancing since she was 3 this is her first year cheering for the Falcons. Not only is she possibly going to the Super Bowl, Haun was also filmed for a segment of "Inside Edition" on the upcoming game.

"It's a good year to be a cheerleader," Haun said.

All across the Atlanta metro area, including Clayton and Henry counties, anticipation for the NFC Championship game, scheduled to be broadcast at 3 p.m. Sunday, is swelling.

In keeping with Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin's proclamation that Friday was "Falcons Fever Day," employees at Jonesboro City Hall were also wearing the team colors. And red and black jerseys were popping up at Arnold Elementary School in Jonesboro as well.

"We normally have a school spirit day on Friday," Arnold Elementary Principal Faith Duncan said. "So we decided to make it Falcons spirit day as well as school spirit day. We have a lot of avid fans here."

Kindergarten teachers Ramona Sims and Cathy Sandberg were two of those avid fans. Sandberg said she is concerned about the forecast of heavy snow in Philadelphia at game time because the field is not in a dome.

"I hope that doesn't hinder them," Sandberg said.

First grader Michael Bryant, 6, wore a Michael Vick jersey and says the Falcons' quarterback is his favorite player.

"Because he made 60 touchdowns," Bryant said.

The Hooters restaurant on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro has been adorned with Falcon decorations in preparation for the game and Assistant Manager Luke Capps said he's expecting big crowds.

"I think every sports bar in the city is," Capps said. "This is our Super Bowl if they don't make it to the Super Bowl."

During the game the restaurant will give away a $100 gift certificate and may be the Hooters in Atlanta selected to give away tickets to the Super Bowl. At the Penalty Box on Ga. Highway 138 in Stockbridge fans will enjoy specials on pizza, buffalo wings, pitchers of beer and Philly cheese steak, said the club's owner George Kopanezos. He's also expecting a big crowd.

"Last week (for the Falcon's playoff game against the St. Louis Rams) we didn't have enough seats," Kopanezos said.

Lovejoy football coach Al Hughes says he's been a Falcons fan "ever since there's been a team called the Falcons." He plans to watch the game at home.

"I've got this nice easy chair. I can set back and watch instant replay," Hughes said.

Then again, he might go over to his brother's house.

"He has TiVo," Hughes said. "We can pause it and argue."