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State College bids farewell to Paterno

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:09 PM EST, Wed January 25, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Crowds line streets for funeral procession
  • No more tickets left for Thursday memorial service, Penn State says
  • Joe Paterno died Sunday at age 85
  • Administrators are aware of a petition to add Paterno's name to the football stadium

University Park, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- The funeral procession carrying the remains of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno traveled Wednesday past Beaver Stadium, where he paced the sidelines for more than five decades.

People along the procession, some dressed in Penn State colors, shouted out, "We love you, Joe! You are Penn State." Others held signs or stood in silence.

A second public viewing was held earlier at the campus spiritual center before the private funeral and burial service in downtown State College.

Paterno's blue hearse was accompanied by several vehicles carrying family members and others.

'Joe was more than football'
Paterno mourner: He's more than a coach

Tuesday, some mourners dabbed their eyes; others made the sign of the cross as they walked past the closed casket that was covered with roses. A black-and-white photograph of a smiling Paterno rested nearby.

Paterno died Sunday at the age of 85.

A public memorial service is scheduled for Thursday at Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State campus. All tickets for the event had been distributed by Tuesday morning, the university said on its Facebook page.

The legendary coach's career with the Nittany Lions abruptly ended last fall amid criticism of his response to alleged child sexual abuse by a former assistant.

A university spokeswoman said Tuesday that administrators have heard about a petition drive seeking to add Paterno's name to the football stadium, but it is too soon to discuss such initiatives.

"There are discussions that will be ongoing, but at this particular juncture, we are focused on the services on campus," she said. "There will be future discussions about a variety of ideas."

Flags were flying at half-staff in Paterno's honor, and President Barack Obama phoned the family Monday to offer his condolences.

"It was very meaningful to my mother and very moving, and it was awfully nice of the president to call us," Paterno's son, Jay, said Tuesday.

He and his sister, Mary Kay Paterno Hort, didn't directly address criticisms of their father for how he handled a 2002 report that an assistant coach had allegedly caught former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky molesting a young boy in a shower at the football complex on campus.

Joe Paterno passed the report on to two university executives, who were later accused by authorities of misleading investigators and failing to properly report the abuse. In his final interview with The Washington Post, Paterno said he felt inadequate to deal with the situation.

In Paterno's 46-season tenure as head coach, the Nittany Lions won two national championships, went undefeated five times and finished in the top 25 national rankings 35 times, according to his official Penn State biography. Paterno worked 61 years at the school.

He became the winningest coach in major college football history on October 29, just days before the Sandusky case became public. The school fired him November 9.

CNN's Sarah Hoye, Julian Cummings, Susan Candiotti and Laura Batchelor, and contributor Sara Ganim contributed to this report.

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