The drive in was strange for Carson Palmer, making the exit off the freeway into the traffic cones and signs and pregame tailgating – not that he hadn't dozens of times previous, for both games and training camp, but knowing he was coming to State Farm Stadium not as a player but as a fan.
"It's a really weird feeling and a really great feeling to be back," the retired quarterback said Sunday before the Cardinals-Seahawks game kicked off, on the day he was being inducted into the Cardinals' Ring of Honor.
It was only the second time Palmer had ever attended an NFL game other than when he played. The first came in high school, in January of 1995 at Candlestick Park, when Troy Aikman's Cowboys played Steve Young's 49ers.
Palmer said they sat up in the nosebleed seats that day, getting the glimpses they could of the players below. Now Palmer's name will be permanently marked at State Farm Stadium for fans of the future to remember his tenure with the franchise.
"As you sit at home watching the game on TV you forget the emotions you have," Palmer said. "The emotions haven't changed for me. It was almost like I was back to play again."
Palmer will be the 18th person inducted into the Ring of Honor, and the first since quarterback Jim Hart in 2017. He becomes the fifth person inducted who played his entire Cardinals' career in Arizona, joining safety Pat Tillman, cornerback Aeneas Williams, quarterback Kurt Warner and safety Adrian Wilson.
The other 12 honored have been owner Charles Bidwill, coach Jimmy Conzelman, halfback Paddy Driscoll, halfback Marshall Goldberg, cornerback Night Train Lane, running back Ollie Matson, RB/coach Ernie Nevers, running back Charlie Trippi, safety Larry Wilson, cornerback Roger Wehrli, tackle Dan Dierdorf, and wide receiver Roy Green.
Palmer ended up with 38 wins as a Cardinals' starter, third in franchise history, even though his 2014 season (ACL) and 2017 season (broken arm) were truncated by injury. He is fourth in passing yards, fourth in touchdown passes and second in passer rating in franchise history, doing all that in just 60 games.
"Being back in an NFL stadium not with a uniform on, with a suit on, probably is not my cup of tea," Palmer said. "But it feels really good to be back."