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Detroit Lions Cheerleaders perform for the the first time in more the 40 years at Ford Field. Before the game they are interviewed by Nash radio FM, and take photos with excited fans like Rich Chiola of Dearborn Heights. Robin Buckson, The Detroit News

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Detroit—While the Lions came up short Sunday during their first home game, the cheerleaders were a different story.

“We needed this,” said fan Lionel Sanders of Detroit at Ford Field. “We should have had cheerleaders 20 years ago. The women are beautiful ... they are like flowers on the field.”

For the the first time in more the 40 years, cheerleaders were on the sidelines. The stadium erupted as the cheerleaders exploded onto the field.

Dressed in tight white shorts with a blue glitter strip down the side and Honolulu blue and white crop tops with Lions spelled across the chest, the squad of 28 danced its first routine to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

“Finally we have cheerleaders. What a dream come true,” said William Jones of Novi. “Now I know we will make it to the playoffs.”

Narrowed to a squad of 28, more than 300 women came to auditions at Ford Field in June.

The squad has up to 15 choreographed dances memorized in addition to the about 60 songs that are played throughout the game.

In order to keep their stamina, cheerleader Nicole said she and her teammates focus more on just learning dance moves.

“Not only do we focus on nutrition and fitness, we run every practice,” she said. “It’s easier to keep your energy up when you see how excited the crowed is because we are used to practicing with no one watching us.”

With the first game under their belt, Rebecca Smoker, Lions cheerleaders director, said she was happy with the way the cheerleaders connected with fans.

“We have a lot of surprises in store this season,” she said. “I hope the fans had a good time.”

Smoker said she wants the squad to stand out for more than just their costumes and dance moves.

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“I want our women to be pure Michigan sweethearts,” she said. “These are our cousins, sisters, mothers and friends. These girls will be relatable and ambassadors in our community.”

At one point, a crowd of fans cheered “Let’s go Detroit” as two women from the cheer squad stopped to take photos with eager fans.

Rod Mills drove from Ontario with his son, Aaron, to watch the first home game.

“I have been a die-hard Lions since I was 5 and now my son is a fan, too, and it’s his first game,” Mills said. “I know my son is just as excited to see the cheerleaders as I am.”

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