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Champ Bailey tribute to Demaryius Thomas: 'I don't know why he came into my life but I'm sure glad he did'

More than 100 Broncos past and present were among the 500 who attended the ceremony Monday in Atlanta that honored Thomas, who was found dead December 9.

Even with Demaryius Thomas’ Celebration of Life closed to the public, approximately 500 people – including well more than 100 Broncos-related members – attended the event Monday held at the basketball arena of his alma mater, Georgia Tech.

Thomas finished his great NFL career as the No. 2 receiver in Broncos history. The No. 1 receiver, Rod Smith, was among those who attended his ceremony. Thomas was found dead in the shower of his Roswell, Ga. on December 9, less than three weeks from his 34th birthday on Christmas Day.

"I’m going to miss him, so dearly," said Champ Bailey, the Broncos’ Hall of Fame cornerback whose final four NFL seasons from 2010-13 were D.T.’s first four. "We had a lot planned. We were talking about doing so many things together. And it was never forced. He was my man. Tell ya what, there’s nobody else like him. He was the best teammate I’ve ever had."

The Broncos flew out of Denver on Monday morning by jumbo charter with approximately 45 players, former players, security, staffers and executives to DT’s celebration in Atlanta. The seven current Bronco players who attended: Kareem Jackson, Courtland Sutton, Bradley Chubb, Garett Bolles, Justin Simmons, Shelby Harris and Brandon McManus (Tim Patrick was bumped because COIVD protocols would not allow him on this particular trip.)

Former Broncos players and DT teammates included Emmanuel Sanders, Aqib Talib, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Matt Paradis, Wesley Woodyard, David Bruton, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen, Brandon Stokley, Tyler Polumbus, Cody Latimer, Britton Colquitt, Jordan Norwood, Jordan "Sunshine" Taylor, Eric Decker and Bailey. Broncos executives included team president Joe Ellis and former general manager and current football consultant John Elway. Former coaches John Fox, Gary Kubiak and Adam Gase attended.

The event began with a procession that passed by displays of Thomas’ photos, magazine covers, footballs, jerseys and a locker equipped with his jersey, two pairs of cleats, his gold Super Bowl 50 football and No. 88 jersey.

Speakers included Bailey, Decker and Morgan Burnett, the former Packers safety who was Thomas’ teammate at Georgia Tech. Pool videos of the event were distributed to the press.

"He touched a lot of people and you see his legacy, but the legacy that sticks with me  the way that he loved," Burnett said. "He had a big heart. He loved everyone. He wanted to see everyone succeed. That ‘team before self,’ that wasn’t just in the locker room. That was his lifestyle. He put people before him."

Decker was Thomas’ receiver mate from 2010, when they were drafted by the Broncos in the first and third rounds, respectively, until Denver decided not to extend Decker’s contract after the 2013 season.

"These past 10 days have been filled with a lot of emotions," Decker said. "Sadness, regret. Disbelief, happiness, laughter. There’s so many memories that we can all reflect on that we had with him."

Added Bailey: "I hope DT understands that I had tremendous love for him. And I hope he felt it because I definitely felt the love he had for me. I was one of those people he stopped and paid attention to. I don’t know why he came into my life but I’m sure glad he did."

RELATED: 'I will always love Bay Bay': Family and friends remember former Broncos star, Demaryius Thomas

RELATED: Broncos contingent to attend Celebration of Life for Demaryius Thomas

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