INDIANAPOLIS – The anticipation began building about 90 minutes before kickoff when Reggie Wayne's name did not appear on the Colts "Will Not Play" list.
Through pre-game warmups and player introductions, the building grew as the thousands began to pour into Lucas Oil Stadium.
And finally the crescendo came when No. 87 ran out with the first team offense to mark his return to the playing field, 10 months removed from tearing the ACL in his right knee.
"It was good to see some real live bullets flying," Wayne said after the game, with the normal media hoard back around 87's locker.
"This is what all that hard rehab work was about, to get back out there with my teammates."
Wayne's return lasted seven snaps on Saturday night as the 35-year old receiver got word from Chuck Pagano on Friday that his debut would come against the Saints.
A pair of catches by Wayne were nullified due to penalties, but he certainly didn't show any limitations in his 2014 game action debut.
Andrew Luck knew during offseason work that whenever Wayne got back on the field, No. 12 would be looking his way on that initial snap.
"I had a really good idea on Thursday night there was a chance of that," Luck said of his first toss going to Wayne on Saturday night.
"He always has that great look in his eye when he's on the football field. It's very, reassuring might not be the right word, but it's great to play with."
The small sample size for Wayne on Saturday night provided a brief glimpse of what the Colts offense hopes to look like come September 7.
A play like Coby Fleener's touchdown, with the tight end running free down the middle of the field, shows the type of attention defenses will have to pay towards Wayne and the other Colts receivers.
The impact of Wayne's return was felt during pre-game, too.
The 65,565 fans inside of Lucas Oil Stadium weren't the only ones rejoicing at the return of Wayne.
When Wayne was introduced last on Saturday, the defensive starters were waiting at midfield for their leader.
"It was good to see the old man back," Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said after the game.
"I had chills before waiting for them to call his name. To see him back, we ride off his energy and you know his energy is never down."
In typical Wayne fashion, the Colts 14-year receiver ran towards the north end zone after being the final starter announced on Saturday.
Wayne thanked the fans at each corner of the end zone while they rang down with chants of "REG-GIE, REG-GIE."
What has continued to drive Wayne during his ACL rehab is how much he valued being able to ring the bell for 189 consecutive starts.
To have the game he loves taken away from him, put into perspective what nights like Saturday mean to one the NFL's most prolific receiver.
And to do it at home, made it all the better.
"I've always loved Indy," Wayne said in thanking the fans.
"They've showed me nothing but respect, always treated me like this was home for me. I want to do everything I possibly can to show that respect back to them."
Photos from the nationally televised preseason week 3 game against New Orleans