Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fans, Friends Gather, Pay Respects to Smith

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fans, Friends Gather, Pay Respects to Smith

Article excerpt

Wearing black-and-gold jerseys and bowing their heads, fans of slain former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith paid homage Friday to this star, almost a week after he was shot and killed during a traffic dispute.

Hundreds of fans, friends and members of the Saints team streamed into a visitation at the Saints' practice facility at a suburb of New Orleans.

Smith, 34, was shot and killed by Cardell Hayes a week ago, police said. Smith was shot seven times in the back and once along his side, the coroner said.His wife, Racquel, was shot twice in the legs but survived. In a wheelchair and wearing sunglasses, she attended the ceremony but did not talk to reporters.

Hayes' lawyer has said his client was not the aggressor and that he will be vindicated when the true story is known.

An attorney for Smith has described Hayes as "enraged" at the time of the shooting and portrayed the Smiths as the victims. Hayes was arrested and is currently being held on $1 million bond.

Smith is a much-beloved member of the Saints organization. He played for the team during its tumultuous post-Katrina season in 2005 when they traveled like nomads from stadium to stadium as the Superdome was repaired.

Then in 2009, he was defensive captain on a team that went all the way to the Super Bowl and won. He and his wife Racquelstayed in the area after he retired, and he remained active with various charities he's supported in the community.

"I came out today because this was a great man. And he did a lot for the city and we got to watch him every Sunday and look up to him," said Lance Ural, from New Orleans, who was wearing a Saints T-shirt as he walked out of the building.

"For something like this to happen it's only right that we pay our respects," he said.

There was no ceremony or speeches as fans filed through the practice field, past photos of Smith. They stood in front of his silver casket which was covered with a bouquet of white orchids. Behind the casket were three large photos of Smith playing football. On either side, large video screens showed video snippets and photos of Smith on and off the field. …

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