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Monday, October 6, 2003
Saints salute former players

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints trip to play the Carolina Panthers was a sentimental journey.

The Saints players wore special T-shirts during the pre-game warmup in Charlotte, and the numbers 51 and 58 under their uniforms as a tribute to Sam Mills and Mark Fields, two former teammates who are battling cancer.

Mills, who played three seasons in Carolina and presently serves as the Panthers' linebackers coach, played with the Saints from 1986-94.

He is undergoing radiation treatment in the Charlotte area after being diagnosed Aug. 28 with cancer in his small intestine and liver.

Fields, the Saints' No. 1 draft pick in 1995, played six seasons in New Orleans from 1995-2000. He was set to play his second season with the Panthers when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in mid-August.

Fields, 30, did not attend the game. Mills, 44, wore headsets and performed his normal coaching duties on the Panthers' sideline. Afterward, Mills visited the Saints' locker room.

"He looked great," Saints coach Jim Haslett said of Mills. "He's only had one treatment."

Mills thanked the team for the tribute, Haslett said.

"If anybody can pull through this, I'd put my money on Sam and Mark," Haslett said.