By Rory Carroll
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Reuters) - Fans arriving at Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers were greeted by tight security on Sunday as soldiers stood guard beside beige armored Humvees and security aircraft buzzed overhead.
Thousands of fans mostly in Broncos orange and blue colors went through bag checks, metal detectors and pat downs in their approach to Levi's Stadium.
When they finally arrived at the end of the security process, many stopped to take pictures of and with the soldiers. Some expressed gratitude to the soldiers for their service.
"I understand their presence," said Melissa Rutledge, 49. "When I see the big guns, I like that. I know they are here for me and it makes me feel safe and secure."
Rutledge, who regularly attends Panthers games, also liked that female security guards performed pat downs on female fans and male security on the men – a first for her at a stadium.
Security guards reported no issues and praised the fans for their good humor.
"Everyone is just happy to be here," said one security guard who declined to give his name because he said he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Theresa Starcher, 33, who made the trip from Denver with her two children, said getting through security was easier than she anticipated. Guards did take her 8-year-old son’s football, but she was able to purchase a new one for him inside the stadium. "I wasn't going to argue with them," she said.
Earlier in the week, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said law enforcement officials had worked with French counterparts to learn from last year's deadly attacks in Paris.
Those attacks include the detonation of a suicide vest outside a soccer game.
"We are always informed by recent events and what we see in the world situation," Johnson said.
On Friday it was announced that NORAD fighters from the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Region would be patrolling the skies during the game to keep the stadium safe.
The Federal Aviation Administration had imposed a temporary flight-restricted zone during the game, which begins at 6:30 PM ET (2330 GMT).
(Editing by Frank Pingue)