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BOSTON (AP) — Patriots Nation is crowing after a federal judge on Thursday erased New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's four-game "Deflategate" suspension.
The decision rippled through lunchtime conversations among office workers, construction crews, tourists and others in downtown Boston and across the six-state region.
"Relief's a good word for it. Justice at last," said John Turner, of Montpelier, Vermont, as he visited Boston's historic Faneuil Hall with family.
Fans heading to Gillette Stadium for Thursday night's final preseason game against the New York Giants said they were energized by the ruling.
"The energy is going to be through the roof," said Carl Goodwin, a carpenter proudly wearing a Patriots T-shirt while working downtown, of Thursday's game day atmosphere. "It's going to be loud. It's going to be wild."
And Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who memorably wore a "Free Brady" T-shirt while taking part in an ice bucket challenge on the statehouse steps this summer, jokingly declared September 3 "Tom Brady Day." Other New England politicians celebrated the "great day" on social media.
Many fans said they never doubted the NFL's punishment would be overturned and their star quarterback would take the field in time for next Thursday's season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It was a big waste of time for Tom Brady to have to go through all of that," said Peter Cordero as he took a break with co-workers in Boston City Hall's expansive brick plaza. "It was a lot of circumstantial evidence."
Some expressed frustration the controversy — about whether the team purposely underinflated footballs during a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts — even got this far, dampening the glow of last season's Super Bowl title and casting a shadow over the franchise.
"It was annoying to hear people downing the Patriots every week, always calling them cheaters," said Rachel Cote, a Maine resident touring Boston with family before heading down to the Patriots game.
"It was a personal vendetta against the Patriots," Mary Ann Joyal, a Rhode Islander who works part-time at Gillette Stadium said in downtown Providence.
But, like their beloved team, fans said they're laser focused on the season ahead — and exacting some measure of revenge on the gridiron.
"Nobody likes us," said Eric Newman, an electrician from Swampscott taking his lunch break in Boston's Financial District. "It's just a motivating thing that will send us to a fifth Super Bowl. I do believe that."
Craig Caplan, who runs a handful of downtown Boston souvenir kiosks, says the controversy has only made New England's notoriously rabid fan base even more defiant, pointing to the "Free Brady" T-shirts that were best-sellers this summer.
"Everybody wants to support Tom Brady," he said.
Caplan showed off a new design Thursday, depicting a shouting, open-mouthed Brady in the vein of the red, white and blue Obama "Hope" campaign posters, framed by the words: "Free at Last."
Associated Press reporter Amy Anthony in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.
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