Muhammad Ali thank you for making athletes public figures capable of shaping the world!instagr.am/p/PXQgfURs4o/
— Brendon Ayanbadejo (@brendon310) September 9, 2012
Michael Phelps, the Rolling Stones, Ice Cube and Gene Simmons will be sharing the stage with the Ravens, Bengals, Raiders and Chargers when the 43rd season of "Monday Night Football" begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Muhammad Ali, meanwhile, stole the spotlight in Baltimore on Sunday when he surprised players and coaches with a visit to Ravens practice.
Entering tonight, there have been 660 "Monday Night Football" games. MNF opens 2012 with a new Rolling Stones-generated soundtrack, a budding rivalry in the AFC North, and an old-school AFL battle that goes back to 1960 when the Chargers were in Los Angeles. The Bengals and Ravens kick off from Baltimore at 7 p.m. Game 2 of the opening-night doubleheader features another intra-divisional rivalry when Oakland plays host to San Diego at 10:15 p.m. The Bengals and Ravens have played only one other time on MNF (Cincinnati won the 2007 opener 27-20). Meanwhile, the Chargers and Raiders have played each other nine times on MNF.
Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps will be an honorary captain in Baltimore, although one member of the Chargers is not impressed.
— Shaun Phillips (@ShaunPhillips95) September 9, 2012
It's been an emotional week for the Ravens.
The team held a memorial viewing for Art Modell, who died last week at 87, on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium as hundreds of fans turned out to pay their respects. Modell, who will also be honored tonight, moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996 and was instrumental in the expansion of the NFL on television -- including the creation of "Monday Night Football," which featured the Browns versus Jets in its 1970 debut telecast. On Sunday, the team's spirits were uplifted and several Ravens took to Twitter after Ali showed up at the Ravens' facility and met with players and coaches following their morning walk-through on behalf of his charity, Generations Ali.
Chillen with the Greatest Of ALL Time!Muhammad AliMonday Nite is Going to be special!!!via.me/-4x4r0l6
— terrell suggs (@untouchablejay4) September 9, 2012
— Bobby Rainey (@BobbyRainey) September 9, 2012
— Bryant Mckinnie (@BryantMckinnie) September 9, 2012
Both the Bengals and Ravens reached the playoffs last season -- with the Ravens reaching the AFC Championship Game before losing to New England.
There's always plenty of optimism in Week 1:
— Danny Tracy (@Danny_Tracy) September 10, 2012
The Raiders and Chargers underwent substantial changes in the offseason -- with the Raiders hiring a new coach (Dennis Allen) and new general manager (Reggie McKenzie) and the Chargers losing Philip Rivers' top target (Vincent Jackson) to free agency and Tampa Bay.
There will be plenty of music after the "Rolling Stones" intro, as well:
MNF!!!! Ice Cube performing!!! Gene Simmons singing the Nat'l Anthem!!! Section 108!!! RRRAAAIIIDDDEEERRRSSS!!!! Lets get it!!!
—Raider Nation (@CCRaiderNation) September 9, 2012
It won't be all mean and ugly in the stands in Oakland:
Shannon Tweed - Traveling to Oakland with my husband for the Raidersgame on Monday! Ready for Raider Nation!
— Shannon Tweed (@shannonleetweed) September 9, 2012
The Raiders lead the all-time series with their long-time AFL/AFC West rival 58-45-2.
— MC HAMMER (@MCHammer) September 10, 2012
Why can't we all just get along? Because it's Raiders versus Chargers, that's why.
— Takeo Spikes (@TakeoSpikes51) September 9, 2012