March 24, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) The Super Bowl turns 50 this year and the NFL is planning a golden yearlong celebration.

The league unveiled plans that include sending a gold-colored football to the high school of every player or head coach who played in the big game.

The football will have the player's name and the name of the high school. In some cases, the player will go to the school to present the ball in person.

As part of its `On the Fifty' celebration, the league will make the number 50 on the 50-yard line in gold for all games and teams will host Super Bowl reunions.

In addition to the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which is still silver, there are big, Tiffany-crafted numbers 5-0 that will go to the Super Bowl winner. The numbers are cast in bronze, plated in 18-karat gold and weigh nearly 33 pounds.

''There's going to be gold infused to everything this year,'' NFL Network analyst and former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner said. ''... Nothing says NFL better than the Super Bowl, so this year is going to really commemorate the last 49 leading up to No. 50.''

The game will be played Feb. 5 at Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, California.

There will be 19 games between past Super Bowl opponents, beginning with the Hall of Fame Game when the Minnesota Vikings play the Pittsburgh Steelers in a rematch of Super Bowl IX.

And for one year only, the league has thrown out the Roman numerals. The next one will be Super Bowl 50, plain and simple. The NFL didn't like the looks of the Roman numeral alternative of Super Bowl L.

The most interesting aspect of the celebration might be that every player and coach who participated in any of the 49 Super Bowls will have their name on a gold-colored football to be presented to high schools.

Warner's football will go to his school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

''It will really be a keepsake for that high school to really say `This is where it all starts,''' Warner said.

The Thursday night game telecasts will feature some of these homecomings.

''You think about having the dream of playing in the Super Bowl,'' Warner said. ''How many guys are in those situations where somebody's telling them `There's no way you're going to come from here and go to the Super Bowl. You're never going to have that opportunity. You might as well give up that dream right now.' And they go to their high schools and they go `Hey, somebody just like me, somebody that was in my shoes, that had the same challenges, that had the same dream, they got a chance to play in the Super Bowl.'''

Teams that have played in the Super Bowl will be honored in reunions at games in their home cities.

The 43 Super Bowl MVPs will be featured in events through the season and will be recognized at the game.

At the draft in Chicago April 30-May 2, draftees will walk on a gold carpet. A gold shield will be added to the back of the team caps they don once they are selected. A Super Bowl museum is planned in conjunction with the draft.

There will be gold-themed uniforms for those participating in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, which kicks off Super Bowl week.

And, of course, the NFL has apparel and other merchandise for sale with the golden 50-year theme.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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