As the football world eagerly awaited the opening kickoff of the Patriots-Steelers season opener on Thursday, the New England fans at Gillette Stadium got their party started a little early, despite rainclouds overhead.

Before no-longer-suspended quarterback Tom Brady took the field in an effort to officially put Defaltegate to bed, the franchise celebrated its fourth Super Bowl championship, won last February against the Seattle Seahawks.

Roughly 15 minutes before kickoff, with the Dropkick Murphys playing behind the south end zone, the field filled with cheerleaders. A 40-yard-long banner that said, "We are all Patriots" was unfurled at midfield.

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Fans were also instructed on what to do for a "card stunt" planned during the ceremony.

Then came fireworks and all four of the Pats' shiny Super Bowl trophies.

The on-field celebration began with dancing cheerleaders and soon the four Vince Lombardi trophies were brought out. The first three trophies were carried out to the field by Patriots Hall of Famers Troy Brown, Willie McGinest and Ty Law. Owner Robert Kraft carried out the fourth.

Although the smoke from the fireworks made it difficult for those in the stadium to see, the trophies got a big cheer from the crowd.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.