Just can't wait? Come to Canton

Just can't wait to get your first taste of 2004 NFL football? The first live game will take place just a few hours up the road from Cincinnati, as Canton, Ohio hosts the annual Hall of Fame preseason game on Monday night, Aug. 9.

The opposing teams -- Denver and Washington -- are both on the Bengals' regular-season schedule. And besides that scouting opportunity, there is much to lure a summer-touring Bengals fan to the Hall of Fame's annual presentation of "Football's Greatest Weekend."

Enshrinement of the 2004 Hall of Fame inductees will take place on Sun., Aug. 8 at 1 p.m. Joining the Hall this year are former Eagles, Rams and Raiders OT Bob Brown, former Vikings and Seahawks DE Carl Eller, former Broncos QB John Elway and former Lions RB Barry Sanders.

A huge civic festival in Canton precedes the Aug. 8-9 major events. ( Link to a full schedule).

Typical attendance during this special weekend will find 200,000 viewers at the Grand Parade (scheduled Sat., Aug. 7 this year), more than 15,000 at the enshrinement ceremony and a crowd of 24,000-plus (including standing room) at the game.

Millions will view the enshrinement live on ESPN, as well as the game on ABC-TV. The game is entering its fifth year in the Monday night time slot.

The first game in the series was played in 1962, a year before the Hall was opened. The Bengals have played in the Hall of Fame Game twice, losing 17-9 to Washington in 1975 and defeating the Los Angeles Rams 14-7 in 1988. That game against the Rams was the first action by the Bengals team that went on to win the AFC title under head coach Sam Wyche and play in Super Bowl XXIII.

This year's enshrinement ceremony will bring Hall of Fame player membership to 225. Elway and Sanders, like former Bengals OT Anthony Munoz, are among 57 of those 225 who were elected to the Hall in their first year of eligibility. Munoz was inducted in 1998.

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