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Damar Hamlin honored in Buffalo Bills’ 1st game after cardiac arrest

(CINCINNATI, Ohio) — As the Buffalo Bills took to the gridiron Sunday wearing T-shirts bearing his number, Damar Hamlin, the 24-year-old player who suffered a cardiac arrest on the field after just seven days ago, posted a new photo online of himself from a hospital bed forming a heart with his hands.

Hamlin’s teammates and the New England Patriots players honored Hamlin at the Bills’ home game at Highmark Stadium in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park by wearing shirts with Hamlin’s No. 3 on them along with the words “Love for Damar” during their pregame warmups.

Fans packing the stadium also showed their support for Hamlin by holding signs wishing him a speedy recovery and red hearts encompassing the player’s number. During pregame ceremonies, the Bills also acknowledged the team’s medical staff members who saved Hamlin’s life after he collapsed on Jan. 2 on the turf at Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium.

In addition to posting an photo of himself from his hospital bed, Hamlin took to Twitter Sunday, writing, “GameDay.. Nothing I Want More Than To Be Running Out That Tunnel With My Brothers. God Using Me In A Different Way Today. Tell Someone You Love Them Today!” The tweet was accompanied by a video of Hamlin taking the field with his teammates at a previous game.

When Hamlin’s face was projected on Highmark Stadium’s jumbotron, fans and players on both sidelines cheered loudly and gave the injured player a standing ovation. Buffalo players charged onto the field waving flags reading “Pray for Damar” and gathered at midfield collectively flashing No. 3 with their fingers.

Hamlin was also honored in pregame ceremonies at NFL stadiums across the country, with announcers calling for support and prayers for the injured defensive safety, who remains in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Bills players also wore patches with Hamlin’s number on their jerseys during the game, which began with an electrifying 96-yard kickoff return by Nyheim Hines.

Hamlin made his first public comments since his life-threatening injury on Saturday in an Instagram post.

“When you put real love out into the world it comes back to you 3x’s as much,” Hamlin wrote. “The Love has been overwhelming, but I’m thankful for every single person that prayed for me and reached out.”

“We brung the world back together behind this,” the post continued. “If you know me you know this (is) only (going to) make me stronger. On a long road keep praying for me!”

Hamlin shared another message on Twitter Saturday and expressed how much he felt the overwhelming support of the past week.

“The love is felt, & extremely real. No matter race or religion everybody coming together in prayer!” he tweeted.

Hamlin was hospitalized in critical condition after collapsing on the field during Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. After several days on a ventilator, the Buffalo Bills updated on Friday that Hamlin was now breathing on his own and talking to family and doctors.

The team said in an update on Twitter on Saturday that Hamlin is “making continued progress” but “remains in critical condition” at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The team said Hamlin “continues to breathe on his own” and that “his neurological function is excellent.”

Hamlin was able to FaceTime with the Buffalo Bills’ players and team on Friday, saying, “Love you boys.”

“The thing that makes me laugh is — he did this to the guys right away — he flexed,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott told reporters Friday about the call. “He flexed on them, I guess. He’s just got some staple things that they know him for and that he does.”

McDermott told reporters Thursday that the Bills going forward with Sunday’s game is what “Damar would’ve wanted.”

After Hamlin collapsed on the field Monday night, scores of concerned fans showed their support via an online fundraiser created by the young NFL star previously. The fundraiser, which is aimed at helping buy toys for kids in need, has now received more than $8 million in donations.

ABC News’ Victoria Arancio and Matt Foster contributed to this report.

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