Few people have as many rooting interests in this year's Super Bowl as Wendell Pierce.
The 50-year-old Pierce was raised in New Orleans' Pontchartain Park neighborhood and went to Benjamin Franklin High School. As a young actor he spent several years living in San Francisco and working at the American Conservatory Theater. And he is perhaps best known for his role as Bunk Moreland, the Baltimore detective on the popular HBO show "The Wire."
But when it comes to which team Pierce will be cheering for on Sunday, the answer is simple.
"My affinity of course is for New Orleans,” Pierce told ThePostGame. "But if the Saints aren't going to be in it, I'm rooting for the Ravens because the 49ers knocked us out [of the playoffs] last year."
For millions of Americans who will tune in to Sunday's game, the Super Bowl will provide a few hours of entertainment and a distraction from everyday life. But for New Orleans and its residents, the game is a milestone in the city's ongoing recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
"It lets you know that you're getting back up on your feet,” Pierce said of his city hosting the nation's largest and most elaborate sporting event. “You've got to have great facilities to be able to host the Super Bowl, and it lets you know that we have the ability to do it. We have the infrastructure, we have great culture, great food, great music and a great stadium. And a great place to celebrate a championship. And that’s something that's very meaningful.
"But it doesn't mean that the work has ended. We still have a lot of work to do. We don't want this to be a tale of two cities, where one part of the city has recovered and the other part of the city hasn't. There's still a large area of New Orleans that’s still recovering."
Pierce has been one of the most active supporters of the city's recovery. His Pontchartain Park Neighborhood Association has focused on restoring and revitalizing the neighborhood where Pierce was raised.
This week Pierce will team up with another champion of New Orleans, Saints defensive end Will Smith, to host a benefit for their charities at Morton's Steakhouse in New Orleans. Smith's foundation, "Where There is A Will, There's A Way," focuses on youth education and athletics.
The event, which takes place from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. CT on Friday, will include a bevy of celebrities and athletes.
Smith has been on the Saints since they drafted him in the first round in 2004, and he and Pierce quickly struck up a friendship. Smith says Pierce is one of the biggest celebrity supporters of the team, and when the Saints visited the White House in 2010 after winning the Super Bowl, sure enough Pierce was there.
Pierce's hard work on behalf of his city, Smith says, has been invaluable.
"[Pierce] means a lot," Smith told ThePostGame. "Anything that involves New Orleans, he's almost like the poster guy that's always involved. Always promoting the city. He does a great job, and he loves the city."