SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Sunday night football returned to Levi's Stadium with all the traditional fanfare.
Close to 68,000 football fans packed Levi's Stadium Sunday night for the 49ers home opener against the Green Bay Packers. It was January 2020 when the stadium hosted its last home game, which, coincidentally was also against the Packers.
Decked out in their best red and gold 49ers merch, fans remarked that after 20 long months, Sunday's game was a particularly special home opener.
"This is the biggest ever home opener, Sunday night football, against the Packers, and right after we could come back! I mean, this is the best thing ever!" Richard Ramirez, who came to the game from Gilroy, said.
"It's super fun, we got really good seats, and I'm really happy to be here!" Emery Olivera, a nine-year-old from Sacramento, who watched the game with her brother and father, said.
Levi's Stadium, which temporarily transformed into California's largest mass vaccination site back in February, is now allowing fans to come to games without requiring them to show proof of vaccination or even a negative COVID-19 test.
"We're all vaccinated and good, but it's weird there's no restrictions," Janelle McCombs of Menlo Park said during her pre-game tailgate with friends. "I'm trying not to think about that, just go Niners!"
For unvaccinated individuals, face masks are required outdoors. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must mask up when indoors, including in club spaces, restrooms, and elevators.
Ariel Rodriguez of San Jose said wearing her mask made her feel safer amid a mega-sized crowd.
"I love the game, and I know what to protect myself, and of course it's the mask. So I will wear my mask the whole time, and feel safe that way," Rodriguez said.
Cindy Cruz from Sunnyvale felt similarly.
"The majority of the time I will try to wear my mask, even though I am vaccinated," Cruz said.
A handful of new food vendors debuted at Sunday's home opener, all emphasizing chefs with local roots.
Puesto, a popular Mexican-style eatery with locations across California, has two new stands at Levi's Stadium.
"Our tacos are one of our most famous items," Nieves Alvarez, House Manager at Puesto in Santa Clara said.
Outside the stadium, Santa Clara businesses garnered some extra revenue from out-of-towners using the game as an opportunity for an overnight getaway.
"We're staying the night tonight at the Hyatt," Francine Chavez said. She and her husband, who proposed at a previous 49ers home opener, drove out from Fresno.
"We haven't missed a home opener since Levi's opened," Chavez said.