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Billy Graham Dedicates Panthers Stadium

August 18, 1996

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Evangelist Billy Graham returned to his hometown Saturday night and dedicated Ericsson Stadium, the new home of the Carolina Panthers.

Graham rode to the center of the field on the back of a golf cart accompanied by team owner Jerry Richardson. He stepped onto a portable podium placed over the red, white and blue NFL insignia at the 50-yard line. He was greeted by a standing ovation after being introduced by Richardson.

``It’s been my privilege to see or speak in most of the great stadiums of the world,″ Graham said. ``And I can tell you from my experience and observation, that there’s nothing else in the world to compare to Ericsson Stadium.″

Graham, who will hold a crusade in the stadium in late September, recalled his previous dedication duties. He was on hand to open the Charlotte Coliseum in 1988.

``It was a wonderful experience for me to stand under the scoreboard and give the greeting and lead the crowd in prayer,″ he said. ``But the next day, I was shocked to learn that the two-ton scoreboard fell to the floor.

``So, I’m surprised that the Richardsons wanted to let me loose at the dedication of the new Ericsson Stadium.″

Having forged a friendship with former Dallas Cowboys owner Clint Murchison and former coach Tom Landry, Graham said he had become one of their fans. That comment drew scattered boos.

``But not since the Panthers have come,″ he said.

Following his pre-game ceremonies, which ended with a moment of silence and a prayer, Graham joined Richardson in his skybox at the west end of the stadium.

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