The only player not suited up because of injury was Dallas tight end Jay Saldi, the special teams captain who bruised his left calf in the NFC title victory over Minnesota.

The Broncos, the American champions after a 12-2 season and playoff victories over Pittsburgh and Oakland, were 5 1/2 point underdogs to Dallas, also 12-2 and postseason winners over Chicago and Minnesota. For the Cowboys, the National conference champions, it was their fourth Super Bowl game.

Their lone victory in a Super Bowl came the last time an NFC team won it, on Jan. 16, 1972, when they drubbed Miami, 24-3, in New Orleans' Tulane Stadium in Super Bowl 6. Dallas lost the year earlier, 16-13 to Baltimore, and again two years ago, 21-17 to Pittsburgh.

The AFC had won the last five straight Super Bowls and eight of the 11 played.

Security officials tried to prevent any problems at the gates to the Superdome by setting up barriers at the foot of each ramp. Only those who could show their tickets were allowed through.

The barriers helped, but they also caused problems for fans unfamiliar with the Superdome entrances.

One man who said he spent a half hour trying to find his gate, finally turned to his wife in frustration and said, "Well, hell, at least we found New Orleans."

The local office of the Southern Christian Leadership conference had asked that the game be dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King. Today would have been his 49th birthday.

The National Football League said it told Norwood Thompson of the New Orleans branch of the SCLC that it would flash a message of remembrance on the scoreboard in the Superdome. Also, CBS had arranged to show the message to the rest of the nation.

But after Hubert H. Humphrey died Friday night, the NFL decided to combine tributes, at half time, to both the senator and the civil rights leader.

A spokesman for the NFL said the SCLC agreed with that arrangement.

There was a rodeo flavor today. Both sides went heavy for western attire --sombreros and high-heeled boots -- but you had to be color blind not to be able to tell them apart.

A cartoonist caught the flavor with a drawing of a cowboy and bronco with the inscription: "There's never been a bronco that can't be rode, there's never been a cowboy that ain't been throwed."

A huckster on Bourbon Street was featuring what he called neutral hats. They were half blue and half orange.

"That way I don't get punched in the nose," he said.

But there were others who found that neutrality -- rather than adversity --

Three young Dallas men in full blue and white regalia showed up for the game. On their arms dangled a trio of beauties, resplendent in orange and loaded down with Bronco regalia.

"Hedging our bets," said one of the men, with a wink. "We win any way the game goes."