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Few seats for faithful fans

Elmer Lai has attended New England Patriots games for more than a decade. During that period, the Pats have qualified for the Super Bowl three times. The number of times the Patriots have contacted Mr. Lai to offer him tickets to the big game?

Zero.

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Lai is one of 60,000 Patriots season-ticket holders, of which just 5,000 were given the opportunity to buy Super Bowl tickets - priced from $500 to $600. Plenty of tickets, he says, were made available to Patriot "club seat" holders - corporate sponsors who pay as much as $600 for a regular season ticket.

"It's all big business and who you know," says Lai from his home in Lincoln, Mass. He now plans to travel to Houston with a few of his friends and try to buy tickets from a scalper outside Reliant stadium.

The cry of hometown fans snubbed by the Super Bowl is a familiar one this time of year, as the NFL caters to corporate honchos who put up large sums of money to be associated with the event.

For those fans curious about who got their hands on the 70,500 tickets to this year's Super Bowl, here's a breakdown:

• 23,800 are divided evenly between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots. Of those tickets, 10,000 went to season-ticket holders. The rest went to players, others in the organization, as well as friends and sponsors. (Each player on these teams can purchase 20 tickets.)

• 3,400 go to the Houston Texans, which made 800 available to Texan season-ticket holders.

• 23,644 are given to the remaining 29 NFL teams (816 tickets per team).

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• 17,136 tickets held by the NFL league office go to television networks, charities, advertisers, as well as NFL players and alumni. Every current NFL player receives two tickets.

• 1,500 go to international sponsors.

• 1,000 were sold to the public via a lottery.

For those not in any of these groups, there's always the secondary market. In other words, ticket brokers. Such brokers are charging as much as $5,000 per ticket. They also bundle tickets in high-priced travel packages that include hotel and airfare.

But Ann Fitzgerald of Blackstone, Mass. - another Patriots season-ticket holder - isn't going to pony up. "It doesn't seem fair that out of all of those tickets, only 5,000 are available to local sports fans," Ms. Fitzgerald laments. Instead of heading to Houston, she plans to spend Sunday participating in another football tradition - the Super Bowl party.