Eli Manning hoisted the Lombardi Trophy from a glittering blue-and-white float, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg joked that New York City should now be nicknamed the "Big Blue Apple," as thousands of fans crowded lower Manhattan on Tuesday to celebrate the New York Giants' Super Bowl victory amid tons of confetti.
The parade set off from the southern tip of Manhattan and rolled slowly north to City Hall, past fans dressed head to toe in red, blue and white Giants gear, with confetti wafting slowly from the high-rises lining Broadway.
Manning, the Super Bowl MVP, joined by coach Tom Coughlin, Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other teammates, waved and grinned from the float as a deep roar rose from the crowds.
Defensive end Justin Tuck said he was glad to be part of the team, leading its defense and sacking New England quarterback Tom Brady twice during the 21-17 victory over the Patriots,
"We made it here by believing in each other. We believe in every guy on this team," he said later during a ceremony at City Hall Plaza. "Honestly, we wouldn't be here today without your support."
The team was introduced with thunderous applause from the thousands of fans outside the City Hall gates. A lucky 250 fans received tickets to the fete, where the Giants were honored with symbolic keys to the city.
The crowd went wild for running back Ahmed Bradshaw, who plopped down in the end zone Sunday to score the winning touchdown. Wide receiver Victor Cruz did his trademark salsa moves as he accepted his key.
Manning joked about the team's fourth-quarter comebacks. "Make it tough but make it possible," he said, laughing about how the team blew an early lead to come back and win. The Giants had eight fourth-quarter comebacks to win games during the season.
"Finish games, finish fourth quarters and finish the season strong. That's what we did," Manning said.
Coughlin said the Giants were successful because they never gave up.
"The key thing was to remember this: All things are possible for those who believe," Coughlin said. "We always believed."
Some fans had waited since 6 a.m. to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. About half of a Long Island high school class skipped school to see "a whole nation coming together in one place - this parade," said Mike King, 16, of Wantagh.
King and seven school friends got up at dawn, arriving by subway in lower Manhattan to join the crowds packed behind police barricades. He attributed the win to Manning's stellar performance and the hold-your-breath catch by Mario Manningham that led to the game-winning drive.
Frank Capogrosso, 11, from Staten Island, leaned against a barricade at the beginning of the parade route with his dad and best friend.
"This is better than TV. I love the cop cars, the toilet paper and the ecstatic fans," he said. "I love the Giants. I love their style. They play, they don't talk."
The parade for the Super Bowl champions could bring the city as much as $38 million, depending on the number of spectators, Bloomberg said. As many as 1 million people were expected - about a third of them from outside New York.
After the parade, the team traveled to New Jersey for an afternoon rally at their home turf, MetLife Stadium. Tens of thousands of fans roared as the team walked onto the field in East Rutherford, making it feel like a regular Sunday game for Big Blue.
Some fans even got to touch a piece of history when Giants running back Brandon Jacobs capped the boisterous celebration by taking the Lombardi Trophy and walking it around the stadium to give delirious fans in the lower rows a chance to lean over and put their hands on it. It was an impromptu moment that fit the mood of the afternoon.
It's the second Super Bowl championship parade for the Giants in four years. They beat the Patriots in the NFL title game in 2008.
Bloomberg asked the crowd: "Are you feeling deja blue all over again?" referring to the team's 2008 win. Fans cheered.
Workers in high-rises tossed confetti - and later entire pieces of papers - from their windows.
Jun Kim, 28, a Korean linguist at the law firm Kenyon & Kenyon, reserved his biggest batch for Manning. "You are a star!" he yelled as the quarterback passed by. "People thought he would crumble under pressure, but he didn't. He's the best."
And once, so were four former Giants players who all starred in past Super Bowls and joined Kim on the 11th floor of Number One Broadway, watching from a balcony "with the best bird's-eye view of the parade," said managing partner Michael Loughnane.
Howard Cross, a onetime Giants tight end, said he only caught a few seconds of the parade from the drop-dead height because "I'm scared - I don't lean over edges!"
Three other former Giants were also at the confetti fest in the 19th century building: Otis Anderson, George Martin and Sean Landetta.
Just moments after the parade passed around noon, a lineup of sanitation plows scraped their way up Broadway, pushing mounds of confetti - some as high as 5 feet.
Fans stood on sidewalks ankle deep in the paper that was later sucked up by sanitation workers armed with hand-held vacuums.
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said he expected about 40 tons of paper to be thrown. That's a lot but not one for the record books: The city threw 5,438 tons of ticker tape on returning veterans at the end of World War II in 1945.
The actual ticker tape from those days has been replaced by recycled paper that's shredded into confetti. About 34 tons of paper were cleaned up after the Giants' 2008 parade.
Mindy Forman, 53, of Yorktown, was one of the lucky few who scored a ticket to the festivities at City Hall. She said the win was a much-needed victory at a time when many could use some cheering up. She counted herself among that group: She was laid off two weeks ago from her job as a college administrator.
"It celebrates New York," she said. "It celebrates the city. It celebrates the state. And it gives people something to believe in in very hard times."
New York has feted its public heroes since 1919, with the first parade for World War I General John Pershing and his victorious troops.
They were followed by more than 200 parades honoring such people as aviator Charles Lindbergh, scientist Albert Einstein, Pope John Paul, South African leader Nelson Mandela and pianist Van Cliburn. Their names are chiseled into the Broadway sidewalks.