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Spears, Blige, Aerosmith Headline NFL Kickoff Live, Sept. 4


Hundreds of thousands of Americans celebrate the Fourth of July by watching a fireworks display over one of America's most beautiful parks -- The National Mall in the heart of Washington, D.C. On the Fourth of September, another unique event will take place on the Mall to help kick off the NFL's 2003 season and salute America's military members.

Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears, Aerosmith and other performers, joined by thousands of American military personnel, will perform with activities beginning at 6 p.m. ET Thursday, Sept. 4 in "NFL Kickoff Live From The National Mall Presented By Pepsi Vanilla," the NFL's second annual football and music festival. Aretha Franklin will sing the national anthem from The National Mall to conclude the event.

The event will be televised live, from 8-9 p.m. ET on ABC, leading up to the season opener between the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets at FedEx Field (ABC, 9 p.m. ET). The one-hour show, which will be produced by Joel Gallen, director-producer of Tenth Planet Productions, will be televised after the game on the West Coast. A co-producer of the Super Bowl XXXVII halftime show, Gallen executive produced the Emmy Award-winning "America: A Tribute to Heroes" in September 2001.

"We had a spectacular first-ever Kickoff event last year in New York City to celebrate the resilient spirit of the city and America," said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. "We are looking forward to this season's opening game in the nation's capital, which presents a unique opportunity to salute the military and other public servants."

The event and the hour-long special on ABC will recognize the Department of Defense's "Operation Tribute to Freedom," an initiative that salutes troops who have returned home and those who are currently active in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. More than 20,000 troops and their families are expected to attend the event. More than 800,000 servicemen and women in 165 countries will be able to watch the event as it will be broadcast on the American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS).

The NFL kickoff event will partner with the U.S. Department of the Interior's Take Pride in America initiative to encourage volunteerism on America's public lands. "The NFL Kickoff is a wonderful opportunity to showcase public service by volunteers who help to protect our natural resources," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. Take Pride In America, a national partnership, empowers volunteers from every corner of America to enhance our parks, refuges, recreation areas and cultural and historic sites. Outstanding volunteer efforts are rewarded with presidential recognition. Take Pride is part of President's Bush's USA Freedom Corps, dedicated to fostering a culture of service to others.

In addition to the football and music festival, the NFL's interactive Super Bowl theme park will be open to the public holding free tickets on The National Mall between 8th and 9th Streets Monday, Sept. 1-Wednesday, Sept. 3. Tickets may be picked up at nearly 200 area Giant Landover stores, courtesy of Pepsi Vanilla, which will offer thousands of samples of diet and regular Pepsi Vanilla to event attendees. Plus, the Pepsi Vanilla NFL Kickoff Sweepstakes, running on until Aug. 17, will give away VIP and behind-the-scenes access to the music festival and tickets to Thursday night's game.

Returning to the event as top tier sponsors are Coors Light, 989 Sports' NFL GameDay 2004, and Reebok. The New York Stock Exchange will return to the event as an associate sponsor.

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