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The Associated Press. Mei Lan, a 3-year-old female giant panda from Zoo Atlanta, is lifted onto a Federal Express cargo plane, called the "FedEx Panda Express," prior to her departure from Atlanta to China on Thursday.

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Atlanta says goodbye to Mei Lan

They were treated like pop idols -- except for being stuck in travel crates. Adoring crowds and television viewers watched Thursday as American-born giant pandas Mei Lan and Tai Shan were loaded onto a special cargo jet for a flight to their new homes in China for breeding.

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