SOURCE: American Eagle Foundation

January 28, 2010 13:25 ET

Eagle 'Challenger' a Soaring Success During Anthem at AFC Championship

PIGEON FORGE, TN--(Marketwire - January 28, 2010) - Ewire -- You may think Peyton Manning or Mark Sanchez were the stars of the AFC Championship game, but another undeniable star shone brightly that Sunday... the celebrity bald eagle Challenger.

The majestic "human-socialized" bird joined 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and over a hundred American soldiers holding a field-sized U.S. flag during the singing of the 'Star Spangled Banner'. He didn't squander one moment of his 50 seconds before the sold-out crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium and throngs of viewers on national CBS television.

In fact, the famous eagle performed a spectacular and flawless soul-stirring flight that helped draw thunderous applause and elicit patriotic goose bumps, complementing the beauty and power of Ms. Sparks' vocals.

Shortly after the Anthem ended, Challenger landed perfectly on the gloved hand of American Eagle Foundation Founder & President Al Cecere, which generated the eagle's very own standing ovation.

When asked by a number of sports fans if Challenger is going to Super Bowl XLIV, Cecere answered: "As it stands right now, we've not been invited, but would certainly jump at the chance to represent America and salute our brave military. We've offered Challenger's services to the bowl organizers in previous years without success."

Over the past 15 years, the free-flying raptor has appeared at many high-profile national sporting events, including five MLB World Series, three NFL Pro-Bowl All-Star games, five Fiesta Bowls, the NCAA Men's Final Four, BCS National Championship, and the International Paralympics (www.eagles.org/aefsplash).

Besides inspiring and wowing people with his special soaring talents, Challenger doubles as an educational ambassador for his species, having helped generate substantial public awareness about the plight of the bald eagle during the time it was on the Endangered Species List.

The popular male bird was blown from his wild Louisiana nest as a baby in a storm. He was initially hand-raised by a caring person who rescued him and then released into the wild twice. Nevertheless, he never learned to hunt for food due to accidental "human imprinting" and was declared "non-releasable" by federal and state wildlife officials.

For the past 20 years, Challenger has been under the care of the non-profit American Eagle Foundation (www.eagles.org), which is headquartered at Dolly Parton's Dollywood family entertainment park in Pigeon Forge, TN. The conservation group is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year.

For the full release please follow this link: http://www.ewire.com/display.cfm/Wire_ID/5409

Contact Information