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Eddie Long funeral news: Thousands attend funeral service for New Birth Missionary Baptist Church pastor

The main sanctuary of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church was filled with thousands of mourners who came to pay their last respects to megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long.

Long died on Jan. 15 at the age of 63 after a battle with cancer. His funeral was attended by several dignitaries and celebrities, including NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, Dottie Peoples, Rev. Byron Cage, civil rights activist Xernona Clayton and former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes.

(YouTube/Eladon6400)Eddie Long appears in a screen capture of a clip posted by Eladon6400

According to CBS, there were strict rules against using cell phones to record videos or take photographs inside the church.

The 6,000-seat main sanctuary was standing room only prior to the start of the service, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Sanders apologized for wearing shades to cover the grief in his eyes as he delivered an emotional tribute to the pastor.

"This is the first day that I have really come to grips that this is real," he said. "This was a father figure to me. This was a man I looked up to, I adored, who called me when many had walked out on me and left me, who made sure I was straight," he added.

Barnes described Long as a "force of nature" who was a "confidant, friend and pick me up."

A video from the American Red Cross was played as part of the tribute to Long. It featured a montage of photos from New Birth members, thanking the church and Long for their commitment to donating blood.

Long was dressed in an off-white robe with a patterned sole. He also wore a gold cross and rings on his fingers, which were later removed and given to Long's wife, Vanessa.

"Bishop is dressed to meet the King. A bishop is the prince in the church so he is dressed to meet the King as a member of the royal priesthood," a minister said, explaining Long's funeral attire.

The casket was then covered in a pall to symbolize humility and removed from the sanctuary. The minister explained that the family wanted the event to be a celebration of Long's life, and they wished that the congregation would focus on Jesus, not on the pastor.

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