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Plane with ‘Free Payton’ banner spotted flying over Saints practice (photos)

If anyone thought that the New Orleans Saints season would carry on and everyone quickly would forget the team’s suspended head coach once pads were put on and training camp started, there is at least one person committed to reminding people that Sean Payton’s absence always should be on everyone’s mind.

Sean Payton, the team’s fiery leader, is currently serving a full-season suspension as punishment for the Saints Bountygate scandal.

An airplane with a banner trailing that read “FREE PAYTON” was seen circling high above the Saints practice fields at least eight times on Wednesday. The pilot of the small aircraft was 54-year-old Phillip Marshall, a United Airlines pilot from California who grew up a Saints fan.

The idea for the stunt came together over some cocktails, when Marshall and Alex Luhrman, the duo behind the website FreePayton.org, devised a plan where Marshall would fly a small private plane from St. Tammany Parish to Metairie with the aforementioned banner trailing behind it.

The cost of the “protest” flight came to $2,100 for the three-hour flight and a Twitter account has been established (@PaytonAir) where updates on any future flights will be posted.

Saints players quoted in a WWLTV.com article seemed to appreciate the act, with safety Roman Harper jokingly claiming he was responsible for the “FREE PAYTON” banner. Drew Brees added he would support and even take part in a stunt such as this one in the future, saying, “If there’s a team something that we want to do, yes, I’ll always chip in, (and) not what people would probably twist that to mean. If it’s a legal and funny thing like that, then yeah, I’d do it.”

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