- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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This didn't feel like a Tuesday at MetLife Stadium.
"Beautiful crowd, no questions about it," Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said about the fans who gathered at MetLife Stadium for the team's pep rally Tuesday. "It felt like a Sunday here."
The Giants estimated that 40,000 to 45,000 fans packed the venue to welcome home the Super Bowl champions after their ride up the Canyon of Heroes. Several speeches were made, rap group Naughty by Nature performed and players took time to interact with fans.
"We just had an incredible experience going through the Canyon of Heroes," Giants co-owner John Mara told the crowd. "But I have to tell ya, and I said this four years ago, when you pull into this place and see all you fans out there, you realize one thing: There's no place like home."
The crowd worked itself up before the pep rally, as Naughty by Nature entertained it with a brief concert, and the Giants' players showed up around 3:30 p.m. to a loud ovation. A video showcasing the Giants' season was shown on the big screens, with the players reacting as they saw some of the top moments.
Mara, co-owner Steve Tisch, head coach Tom Coughlin, defensive end Justin Tuck and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning all took time to address the crowd and thank fans for supporting them throughout the year and showing up on a rather chilly day.
"We started the season out with a theme," Coughlin said. "The theme was finish. This is an incredible finish to an amazing season."
Tuck, who had two sacks in the Super Bowl, elicited one of the biggest reactions from the crowd. The defensive end referenced Giants Stadium before bringing up the new name of facility, MetLife Stadium. He then fired back at the Jets and their head coach Rex Ryan, who has said his team owns New York City and is big brother in town.
"It's MetLife Stadium. But the one thing you can be sure of, of whose house it is," Tuck said about the stadium.
As the players filed off the stage, some left quickly while others took time to give the fans a show. Jacobs ran around the stadium with the Lombardi trophy, letting the fans touch the team's newest hardware. Victor Cruz, who heard "Cruuuuuuz" chants throughout the event, also ran around the stadium to interact with followers.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks spent plenty of time autographing footballs, shirts, hats and other items for the fans, moving slowly from left to right as they thanked the fans for their support. Safety Antrel Rolle slapped hands with fans.
"The whole day is unbelievable," Mara said. "To watch these players enjoy the Canyon of Heroes is pretty cool. But then to come back here to our home and see this kind of enthusiasm is really the icing on the cake, and it's just been a great day."
Mara said there were more fans at the event than expected but added he shouldn't have been surprised. He actually said that it felt better than when the Giants hosted the same events after winning the NFL title in 2007. Long snapper Zak DeOssie added that it seemed there were more people here this time.
"Today was a gorgeous day on both sides of the river," Tisch said on the field afterward. "Millions of fans saying thank you to the New York Giants and the New York Giants thanking millions of fans back."