ATHENS – The party continued for the national champion Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.

A crowd of well over 100,000 people gathered on UGA’s campus for a parade down Lumpkin Street on Saturday, five days after Georgia captured the school’s first national title in 41 years with a 33-18 win over then-No. 1-ranked Alabama in Indianapolis.

After the parade, 90,000 or so fans who downloaded free tickets made their way inside Sanford Stadium for a formal ceremony acknowledging the Bulldogs’ 2021 College Football Playoff championship. Several thousand more crowded Sanford Drive and Gillis Bridge and watched the hour-long program from there.

“I’ve been to number of national-championship celebrations, but I have never been to one in a full stadium in the middle of January,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, among many of the day’s speakers. “This is impressive!”

A huge black stage was erected on the western-most 20-yard line on Dooley Field and white chairs were set up in neat rows surrounding Georgia’s national championship logo, which replaced the red Power G that usually occupies that space on game days.

The star of the day was Georgia coach Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs’ head man for six seasons now, he first faced Alabama for the national title Jan. 8, 2018. Georgia lost in agonizing fashion, 26-23 in overtime. Four years and two days later, the Bulldogs atoned for that with a thrilling finish, outscored the Crimson Tide 20-0 over the final eight minutes for a come-from-behind victory.

Smart’s feet have barely touched the ground since.

“A new standard of excellence has been set, and we expect that to be upheld,” Smart said at the end of his 10-minute remarks. “We’re burning the boats, baby. We’re coming back.”

Preceding the program was a video tribute to the 2021 team, narrated by Vince Dooley, coach of the 1980 team. Dooley was among a small representation of Georgia’s last national championship team, including quarterback Buck Belue.

Former Bulldog D.J. Shockley, quarterback of the 2005 SEC Championship team and now the sideline reporter for Georgia’s radio broadcasts, served as master of ceremonies for the hour-long program.

Speakers included Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Sankey, Athletic Director Josh Brooks and UGA President Jere Morehead.

“How ‘bout them Dawgs!” Kemp said. “As somebody who was in New Orleans 41 years ago, this has been a long time coming.”

Kemp then proclaimed Jan. 15, 2022, as “Georgia National Championship Day” in the state.

Morehead called the 2021 Bulldogs “tenacious and unyielding, from Charlotte, to Athens, to Jacksonville, Miami and, of course Indianapolis.”

Morehead, who hired Smart to succeed Mark Richt in December 2015, also paid homage to Smart.

“Athletic Director Greg McGarity and I knew that he was the right person to set the University of Georgia on the path to a national championship,” Morehead said.

Only two players spoke for the team, and neither of them was quarterback Stetson Bennett, who was named offensive MVP of the Orange Bowl and the championship game. Senior offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer represented the offense, and senior nose guard Jordan Davis represented the defense.

Davis was one of several seniors who passed on the chance to turn pro to return to pursue the national championship one more time.

“We knew we had something special in this team, and we couldn’t leave,” Davis said.

The beloved big man from Charlotte who won the Outland and Bednarik national awards, drew the biggest ovation of the day when, at the end of his remarks, he pulled up his white UGA sweatshirt to reveal a Braves jersey underneath.

“Go Braves and go Dawgs,” he shouted into the microphone, sending the crowd briefly into the Braves’ chant.

The Bulldogs actually were presented with three national-championship trophies during the ceremony. There was the gold CFP trophy they were seen lifting on the winner’s platform at Lucas Oil Stadium. But the National Football Foundation also presented what’s called the Douglas McArthur Bowl, and the American Football Coaches Association brought its national championship trophy, which features the iconic crystal football. Smart dutifully kissed the football and held it up, which set off a chant of “Kirby, Kirby, Kirby!.”

The intended highlight of the show was the hoisting of the 2021 national championship banner. It went up on a flagpole at the top of the eastern upper level of the stadium, in geometric center between SEC championship flags and the two other national champion banners.

Currently, there are two permanent acknowledgements of Georgia’s 1942 and 1980 national championships mounted to the right of the scoreboard on the eastern interior façade of Sanford Stadium. That will soon be fitted with one for 2021.

In between were several memorable moments. Smart’s best line probably was when he was paying tribute to the Georgia fans, “the Bulldog Nation,” which has supported his regime so well and followed them everywhere over these past six seasons. That included the 2017 trip to South Bend, Ind., when UGA fans took over Notre Dame Stadium. Similarly, Lucas Oil Stadium was two-thirds filled with the red-and-black faithful for Monday’s championship game.

“We’re requesting citizenship in that state because we’ve taken over Indiana twice,” Smart cracked.

As he has throughout the season, Smart quoted Henry David Thoreau, who wrote, “success comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

“We just kept chopping wood,” Smart added.

Thousands more fans attended the parade, which started two hours before the program began at Sanford Stadium. The procession went like this: Smart and his family were the first in line, riding in the back of a black Ford F-150 pickup truck. Behind them went Hairy Dawg, the mascot. Coaches, coaches’ families and some of the players, sitting on hay bales, rode on flatbeds pulled by tractor-trailers. Some of the players rode on top of firetrucks, while others still sat up in the back of convertible vehicles and the backs of pickups.

Salyer held up a sign from the back one truck that said‚ ”It’s My Mom’s birthday!” and featured a poster-size picture of him and his mother.

The procession began on Pinecrest Drive in front of Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. It turned right on Lumpkin Street and proceeded down the steep hill to the Tate Center parking lot. There the majority of the crowd gathered for the traditional Dawg Walk that the Bulldogs conduct before every game.

All the commotion outside the stadium created a somewhat chaotic scene as parade attendees with tickets to the formal program inside Sanford Stadium scrambled to get inside. But organizers wisely built in an hour in between the events to keep it from becoming a safety issue and so that the main event, televised by WSB, began on time.

It has, of course, been 41 years since the Bulldogs won a national championship. Interestingly, the 1980 team did not get a parade. Belue, quarterback of that team and now an Atlanta sports radio personality, recalled a special “championship coronation” at Stegeman Coliseum. But conducted “a couple weeks later,” that event was attended mostly by UGA students and featured an odd skit deriding the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, with the ceremony held during the Iran hostage crisis.

“Yeah, that kind of went over most of our heads,” Belue said with a laugh.

But the 1980 squad played a role in Saturday’s proceedings. The seniors from that team that could make it to Athens gathered together and raised the 2021 championship flag and Smart credited them for “laying the foundation for this.”

“That 1980 team will never be forgotten,” Smart said. “They supported us and they wanted this to happen, and we appreciate them.”