Wearing Saints black and gold, fans of Will Smith pay homage

AP Photo
The Associated Press

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Wearing black and gold jerseys and bowing their heads, fans of slain former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith paid homage to the star on Friday, almost a week after he was shot and killed during a traffic dispute.

Hundreds of fans streamed into a visitation at the Saints’ practice facility at a suburb of New Orleans.

Smith, 34, was shot and killed by 28-year-old Cardell Hayes last Saturday, police said. Smith was shot seven times in the back and once along his side, the coroner said. His wife was shot twice but survived.

Hayes’ lawyer has said his client was not the aggressor and that he’ll 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.

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 Superbowl and won. He and his wife Racquel stayed in the area after he retired, and he remained active with various charities he’s supported in the community.

There was no ceremony or speeches at the visitation. Fans filed past photos of Smith and stood in front of his silver casket which was covered with a bouquet of white flowers.

Many fans wore their black and gold Saints’ jerseys and T-shirts as they lingered in front of the casket. Others kneeled down or bowed their heads in respect.

Many members of the Saints organization, including coach Sean Payton, attended.

Guests signed a guest book and prayer cards and could make donations to Smith’s “Where There’s A Will, There’s a Way Foundation.”

A private family burial and funeral service is scheduled for Saturday.

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