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An estimated 1.5 million jubilant fans show Patriots pride at parade

Hundreds of thousands of euphoric fans packed the streets of Boston Tuesday in perhaps the largest rally in the city’s history, a triumphant victory parade that celebrated the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots with deafening cheers and raining confetti.

Tired of winning, New England? Not by a long shot. Fans clad in treasured Patriots garb poured into downtown in jubilation, riding a wave of adrenaline from the team’s incredible sixth title on Sunday.

Their numbers overwhelmed the train and subway system like Patriots linemen on LA Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Thousands of fans and daily commuters were stranded on MBTA platforms near and far, watching train after train roll by without room to take on more passengers.

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The traditional duck boat parade was blessed with glorious weather borrowed from May, and the city seemed impossibly happy for early February. It was the 12th time since 2002 that Boston has celebrated what many cities would consider a once-in-a-lifetime event, a gotta-pinch-myself win streak like no place has ever seen.

This title seemed especially sweet. For much of the year, a Super Bowl victory seemed unlikely, and pundits speculated that the team’s best days were behind it. Then the playoffs came, and the Patriots — once again — found their stride, adopting the rallying cry of “We’re still here.”

Without a winter jacket in sight, Teanna Simmons, 39, from Dorchester, arrived at City Hall Plaza wearing purple roller skates and a Patriots hat, and with a portable speaker blaring Queen’s “We Are the Champions” on repeat.

“That’s the theme song for the day,” she said with a smile.

That’s our theme song for the past 17 years.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick drove fans into a paroxysm of cheers as they inched along the parade route in duck boats, holding six fingers aloft, for their six NFL titles together. Tight end Rob Gronkowski got the crowd rocking by busting dance moves on his boat with other players during the raucous procession. The beloved Gronk also cuddled a stuffed goat. That’s goat for G.O.A.T., the acronym that is now practically Brady’s nickname: Greatest of All Time.

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The party started long before the parade did. By 8:30 a.m., Tremont Street was a sea of red, white, and blue Patriots jerseys. Fans tossed the pigskin back and forth and implored passing vehicles to let out celebratory honks. When drivers obliged, the masses cheered. When cars declined, the fandom booed. Some fans chucked a ball around on an icy stretch of the Public Garden lagoon, before the thaw that would come with the day’s high temps in the mid-60s.

Police arrested 12 people, said Boston police Sergeant John Boyle. Eight of them, including seven juveniles, were taken into custody for alcohol-related infractions. Multiple people were arrested in connection with a fight that broke out around 2:30 p.m. in the area of Washington and Bromfield streets, Boyle said. Specific charges weren’t immediately available.

Boston police estimated the crowd at 1.5 million, and Boyle suggested the parade had drawn the largest crowd the city has seen.

One of those fans, 10-year-old Chase Makris of Plymouth, said his grandfather, a season ticket holder, often recalls a terrifying time in the distant past when the team’s fortunes were very different.

“He tells me how bad they were back then, and about all the old players,” Chase said.

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Yes, the bad old days. When the earth was young and grandpa rode to Foxborough on his dinosaur and split a pair of season tickets with John Quincy Adams.

Was it really so long ago?

For younger fans, it might as well be.

Kelly Cunningham’s earliest Patriots memory is of the 2004 Super Bowl. She recalls sitting in an oversized blue Drew Bledsoe jersey, watching the Patriots take home the title — then going to the victory parade. Since then, Cunningham has known nothing but football excellence. “I’m spoiled. That’s what my dad says,” said Cunningham, now 18, who came to Tuesday’s parade in that same royal blue, 1990s-style Bledsoe jersey, which she’s grown into over the years.

Cunningham is one of a generation of Patriots fans who have aged into adulthood never knowing the pall of NFL mediocrity, or worse. To them, Brady and Belichick are as eternal to Massachusetts as Plymouth Rock and Cape Cod traffic, and the era of futility on Route 1 exists only in legend, like some dark myth translated from cave drawings.

“It’s hard to imagine they’re ever going to be bad because they have one of the best coaches ever,” said Andrew McCourt, who was born in 1997. Brady, he said, “just seems to get better with age.”

Perhaps, at the team’s sixth victory parade, fans could be forgiven for a few unrealistic expectations.

Andrew Reynolds, 18, can’t believe the team’s quarterback will ever retire. But even if he did, Reynolds thinks Belichick can find a good replacement in the draft.

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“The dynasty’s just going to go on forever,” he said.

Across Boston Common, Paola Reyes, 47, offered a longer perspective. She is a hard-core fan who stuck with the team through its leanest years. A 1-15 record is no abstraction to her. She lived it. She has been reveling in the unbelievable fortune of the past two decades, but she had a warning for young fans who think the good times will never end.

“They’ve got a world of hurt coming to them,” she said, of Brady’s eventual retirement, sometime in the next, eh, 20 years. “He’s getting up there, and I don’t think we’ll ever see this again in our lifetimes.”

True enough. Until then, though, same time next year?


Mike Bello, Laura Crimaldi, Andy Rosen, Milton Valencia, Steve Annear, Travis Andersen, Emily Sweeney, John Ellement, and Meghan Barr of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Annika Hom contributed to this report. Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark