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Blank: Falcons ‘hope to be first team ever to host and play in Super Bowl’

Arthur Blank noticed the prediction in Sports Illustrated that his Falcons will win the Super Bowl in their home stadium this season. 

He would love that, of course, but he said his 16 seasons as an NFL owner have taught him not to look beyond the next game and certainly not all the way to February. 

“Too much can happen,” he said.

Still, “we obviously hope to be the first team ever to host and play in the Super Bowl (in the same season),” Blank said Wednesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for a park renovation on Atlanta’s Westside.

“I don’t talk about that much,” Blank said of the Falcons’ Super Bowl-at-home prospects.  “We have a very competitive team. Our team is better this year than last year. We’re going to go out and compete on Sundays and see what happens, but obviously that would be a very special honor for us.” 

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In the Super Bowl’s 52-year history, no team has ever played in the game in its home stadium. But in Sports Illustrated’s Aug. 27 issue, NFL analyst Andy Benoit predicts the Falcons will defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3. 

» Follow: AJC’s continuing coverage of Super Bowl 52 in Atlanta

“Atlanta has a diverse, electrifying offense quarterbacked by 2016 MVP Matt Ryan,” Benoit wrote. “They also have a fast, unified defense built around guys in their prime. … Atlanta finally gets its Lombardi Trophy.” 

Decades ago, two teams did reach Super Bowls that were played in their home markets, but not in their home stadiums. The 1979 Los Angeles Rams played in Super Bowl XIV at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif., and the 1984 San Francisco 49ers played in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, Calif. 

The Minnesota Vikings came within one win of playing in last season’s Super Bowl in their home venue, U.S. Bank Stadium, but they lost at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game. The Vikings were the first team to even reach a conference title game in the season its stadium hosted the Super Bowl.

The groundbreaking ceremony Blank attended Wednesday was for a $2 million renovation of a neighborhood park as a lasting legacy of Super Bowl LIII here. 

The renovation of John F. Kennedy Park, located about a mile from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be funded by contributions from the NFL Foundation and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and by ticket proceeds from an open-to-the-public Falcons practice held last month. 

Blank said the park renovation – see details here -- is an example that the Super Bowl “will touch Atlanta in many, many different ways.”  

And in even more ways if the Falcons make history by reaching the ultimate game at home. 

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