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Thousands came to pay their last respects Saturday to the man who brought pro football back to Baltimore, nodding solemnly at the coffin on the 50-yard line of a stadium that might not be there if it weren’t for Art Modell.

Mourners thanked him for 17 years of purple Fridays and Ray Lewis dancing out of the tunnel, for the Lombardi Trophy that gleamed next to his flag-draped casket in recognition of the Ravens’ 2000 World Championship. They thanked him, most of all, for restoring a piece of the city’s soul.

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