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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Vol athletes and the Pride of the Southland Band reversed roles Friday — the band was in the spotlight and the players were the supporting cast.

 Just before the 300-member-strong band was to leave for its 11th appearance in a Presidential Inauguration, Peyton Manning and other members of the football team presented band members a $77,000 check to cover expenses for the inaugural trip.

 The money comes from UT’s New Year’s Day Citrus Bowl appearance in Orlando, Fla.

“Rain or shine, the band has always been there for us,” Manning said. “When the folks in the Athletics Department heard that the band needed some help, no one hesitated a minute. Helping the band represent UT at the inauguration is our way of saying thanks for all you do.”

The athletes also loaded the first instrument on one of the seven buses that will leave at midnight Friday for Washington.

 “This a wonderful gesture from the Athletics Department and the student athletes that could not have come at a better time,” Gary Schallert, assistant band director, said. “Funds are tight for the band program and for the university. This gift will allow the Pride of the Southland Band to continue the tradition of representing Tennessee in the Presidential Inaugural Parade.”

 The band has marched in every parade since 1952 except the Kennedy inauguration in 1960, Schallert said. At the 1993 inauguration parade, the Pride of the Southland was the second band in the parade, behind Arkansas, in recognition of Vice President Al Gore’s home state.

 The band’s schedule includes sightseeing in Washington Saturday and Sunday, with church services at the National Cathedral for those who wish to attend.

 The Presidential Inaugural Parade is Monday and the band returns Tuesday to Knoxville.