Falcons fans came out strong to participate in the Falcons March, Falcons Landing activities and tailgating before the Falcons game on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
Imagine growing up, loving the game of football, but not being able to watch as your favorite wide receiver snags an impossible catch for six points. Imagine not being able to watch your team force a game-winning fumble, jumping on the ball with a minute left in the fourth quarter.
This time last year, that was the reality of 17-year-old Atlanta Falcons fan Pierce Keen, who was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome at age four, causing severe vision impairment. An avid football fan, neither he nor his parents ever thought he'd be able to go to an NFL game and watch it in person.
That changed Sunday, when Pierce, accompanied by his mom Dianne, got the chance to stand on the sidelines during pregame warmups, prior to the Falcons-Bears game. It had only been a few months since his eyes had completely healed from surgery, bringing his vision from 20/400 to 20/30 with special contacts.
"(The players) are bigger than what I thought," the 6-foot-5 teenager said as he looked on with his newfound vision. "(The Dome) is a lot smaller than I thought it would be."
As far as being a football fan goes, watching the game is the heart and soul of the action. It is where heartbreaking losses take place and last-second, game-winning touchdowns bring fans to their feet.
The Falcons are back in the Georgia Dome Sunday afternoon to take on the Chicago Bears. The players and coaches will wear pink to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Far away, you'd never know by looking at Pierce that he'd never had that experience before.
Up close, however, there was a raw intensity in his eyes, while he watched the flurry of action as players stretched and warmed up in the end zone, pointing out big-name players to his mom as he saw them.
Pierce was treated to a brief conversation with the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders, after a few of them came over and introduced themselves. Standing next to them, he smiled on as his mom snapped pictures, capturing the special day.
Both Pierce and his mom participated in the pregame show, honoring breast cancer survivors. They held the corner of one of two American flags on the field, each flanking the pink breast cancer ribbon, while the Shades of Pink Breast Cancer Survivors Choir sang the National Anthem.
"It truly is an absolute dream come true," Dianne said as she watched her son soak up his first ever gameday experience. "The day-to-day life, the visual part of this, has changed everything for him."