INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning added a new pitch to his plethora of endorsements Wednesday - one that came from the heart.
On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Manning gave an impromptu boost to the tourism industry in his hometown of New Orleans by calling on those who have not visited the city recently to return.
``People around the country need to know they can still use their help and support,'' Manning told reporters. ``Prayers and money are good, but there has been progress in certain areas and people can visit those areas. They need the tourists to come back.''
For Manning, New Orleans has always been a special place.
His father, Archie, was a longtime quarterback for the Saints and then served as a color analyst for Saints games on the radio. It was New Orleans where the league's two-time MVP honed his football skills, first in his parents' backyard and later at Isidore Newman High School.
Manning's parents and older brother, Cooper, still live in New Orleans, and after the hurricane struck in August 2005, Manning was one of the league's biggest names to lend support to the recovery effort. Manning and his younger brother, Eli, even shipped a planeload of supplies back home.
And next Thursday, Manning will open his 10th NFL season against the Saints.
While Manning acknowledged the recovery effort is continuing, his visits have shown a side of New Orleans he believes others also need to see.
``Certainly there's been some progress, and there certainly needs to be more,'' he said. ``It's taken two years to get to this point, and I think two years from now there's still going to be more work that needs to be done. I will say in my visits down there, that spirits are high. ... But what they really need is people to come back to New Orleans.''
Manning commended Saints players, many of whom live in the city, for their support and specifically cited the contributions of running back Reggie Bush and coach Sean Payton for their help in the recovery effort.
Payton has assisted with Habitat for Humanity projects, while Bush has helped direct donations to replace turf at a high school football field, keep a private school for special needs children open and bought Hummers for a suburban police department.
Manning also believes the success of the local sports teams, such as the Saints reaching their first NFC Championship game last season and the highly ranked LSU football team, has helped create excitement among New Orleans residents.
``Most of the people who are back there now, I think, are there for the long haul,'' Manning said. ``In places like Lakeview and Metairie, where there was high flooding, they're committed to rebuilding. There is progress in certain areas, but there needs to be more in others.''
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