Standing curbside with camera in hand on T Street NW yesterday, former D.C. mayor Walter Washington was nearly beside himself. He laughed, he smiled, he waved at the procession of antique cars, horse-drawn carriages, smiling beauties and the high-strutting marching bands of his alma mater, Howard University, and its rival for this year's homecoming game, Morehouse College.

"It couldn't pass a better place," said Washington, who was standing in front of his house.

Thousands of students and alumni of both schools poured into town and onto Howard's campus from all over the country for the festivities this past week. There were alumni from Washington's college days, the classes of '38, when he received a bachelor's degree, and '48 when he graduated from law school.

"We've got about 40 or 50 guests here," Washington said. "It's a combination social, cultural and revisiting the university."

To whip up pregame school spirits, a Grand March wound its way through the Ledroit Park neighborhood just south of the campus, drawing residents out of their houses to watch and, in some cases, dance in the streets.

Constance Thomas-Razza, 52, a resident of the area for seven years, was sweeping her front walk when a heavy drumbeat signaled the approach of Howard's Marching Bisons.

"I think it's great that they come through the Ledroit historic district because that's the birthplace of Howard University," she said.

On Fourth Street, a gaggle of youngsters, some wearing "Say No to Drugs" T-shirts, ran along the sidewalk to keep up with the marchers. A group of women, well beyond traditional college age, gawked admiringly at Howard's dancing majorettes clad in blue with sequins, hollering, "Get it, girl," for moral support.

Crowds were nearly nonexistent along parts of the marchers' route, but as the bands came closer to campus the number of onlookers grew. Vernon Smith, Howard's alumni relations officer, estimated a crowd of 20,000 on campus for the game. All of the events of the week, including dances, dinners and brunches, had been sold out, he said.

"This will be by far the largest turnout we've had for homecoming in many, many years," Smith said.

Among those who returned to their alma mater this week were several homecoming queens of years past who rode in the parade. They included Pat Adams, queen of 1952, who now lives in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"She got her bachelor's and her master's degree in vocal performance from Howard," said her daughter Veronica Johnson, 26, also an alumnus.

For many, the giant reunion was a chance to gloat over both their individual progress since college and the collective achievements of the black middle class that Howard has traditionally represented.

"You have so many years {represented} here, and look at all the queens," said Mary Frances Spruce, 34, a queen in 1973 who now is a camerawoman for NBC in New York. "There's so much black community here."

After a long morning, indeed a long week of preparation, band director Richard Lee took a moment just before the band's entrance onto the playing field to reflect on the point of it all.

"Mainly, it's just a family atmosphere. Everybody comes home," Lee said. Asked if he went to Howard, he shrugged and said, "Well, you know, everybody can't be an alumnus of Howard."