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Long-time Falcons fans soak in memorable season

Special Photo Brian and Kristin Lunsford attended the Atlanta Falcons' game against Arizona on Nov. 18, while Kristin was in labor. Two days later, she gave birth to their first child, Jacob. If they Falcons play in the Super Bowl, the family plans to travel to New Orleans.

Special Photo Brian and Kristin Lunsford attended the Atlanta Falcons' game against Arizona on Nov. 18, while Kristin was in labor. Two days later, she gave birth to their first child, Jacob. If they Falcons play in the Super Bowl, the family plans to travel to New Orleans.

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Brian and Kristin Lunsford attended the Atlanta Falcons' game against Arizona on Nov. 18, while Kristin was in labor. Two days later, she gave birth to their first child, Jacob. If they Falcons play in the Super Bowl, the family plans to travel to New Orleans.

ATLANTA -- When Brian Lunsford was a kid, he made homemade schedule posters of each Atlanta Falcons season, and filled them in each Sunday night.

As his wife recalled this week, it proved to be a sad exercise because the Falcons lost more often than they won.

But Lunsford stuck with the team, and has been rewarded this season by it playing host to the NFC Championship game for the first time in franchise history. Lunsford's wife, Kristin, aware of her husband's feelings for the Falcons, knew how important attending the Nov. 18 game versus Arizona was, despite being about 34 weeks pregnant.

So Kristin ignored pregnancy pains she had experienced for two days, and went to the Georgia Dome, tailgated and watched the Falcons beat the Cardinals 23-19.

"I downplayed it, so it didn't ruin the game for him," Kristin said this week.

What's more, a woman at the game who recognized the Lunsfords, Grayson residents who are season ticket holders, said she dreamed that the Lunsfords had their baby at the Dome.

Following the game, as Kristin struggled to walk out of the stadium, they decided to visit their doctor first thing Monday morning. By Monday night, she was three centimeters dilated, and at 8 a.m. on Nov. 20, their son, Jacob, was born.

"Being our first (baby), we really didn't know," said Brian, who added that the baby's due date was Dec. 27. "She's a school teacher, she's not one of these folks to complain. (I thought), let's keep an eye on it. Looking back, I wished I was more conservative and took her in."

Having a newborn in the house also hasn't prevented the Lunsfords from planning a trip to New Orleans for the Super Bowl if the Falcons beat San Francisco. They were in the Dome for last week's game, and plan to attend the NFC Championship.

"She would always smile when I talked about it," said Brian, who also attended the Super Bowl at the end of the 1998 season, the Falcons' only appearance. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to go."

While other Falcons fans may not have the lasting, unique memory of this season, their connection to the team stretches back to the inception of the franchise in 1966.

That's when Duluth resident Brandon Rogers' father bought tickets to the team's first season, and eventually made it a weekly family event each fall. Beginning in 1977, Rogers said he's attended more than 320 Falcons games, attended the Super Bowl at the end of the 1998 season and went to Deion Sanders' Hall of Fame induction in Canton, Ohio.

"My earliest memories of sporting events were affiliated with the Falcons," Rogers said.

Even after the hundreds of Falcons games he's attended, and University of Georgia football games, Rogers said last Sunday's back-and-forth contest with Seattle was a first.

"I've never been so emotionally drained, it was crazy," he said.

A former Suwanee resident, Nick Prater said he can remember watching the Falcons' training camp in Suwanee and eating a Big Mac at a McDonald's restaurant nearby. The Dacula resident called this season "magical" and remembers the cascade of boos for the likes of former Falcons quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich from the Dome faithful.

"I can remember the Falcons definitely not being one of the premier teams in the league," Prater said. "So it's fun to have a classy (general manager), owner, coach. It's really cool to see."

Prater said he plans to attend the NFC Championship, "if my heart can take it."

Rogers and Prater are both optimistic about the NFC Championship, while Brian Lunsford said the national media has given a lot of attention to San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"I was really nervous last week, this week I have a better feeling," said Prater, who told his wife a Super Bowl trip would be on his "bucket list." "It just seems like nobody is giving us a chance."

For the first time in four or five years, Rogers said his family plans to tailgate before the NFC Championship. He plans to pull out old memorabilia from the 1998 season and do it up big.

"A lot of people are asking if I have extra tickets, like I'm a player," Rogers said. "I used to not be able to drag people to games."