Many had waited for hours overnight and come from all over the world, to file past the open casket of the footballing icon who was brought to his spiritual home of Santos for one last time.
The return of a king to his beloved Santos was welcomed with flags, flares and fans singing his name even before the sun rose on a blisteringly hot day in the city.
Football icon Pelé, the only player ever to win three World Cups, died on 29 December at the age of 82. A Catholic mass will be celebrated in Santos this morning before his burial at a nearby cemetery.
Transported to the pitch that made Pelé a superstar, his home ground at Vila Belmiro had banners adorning the hoardings proclaiming, “Viva O Rei” (long live the king) and shirts with his iconic number 10 hanging over every seat in one stand.
Placing him on the center circle one last time was a little less smooth than fans might have been used to seeing in life, as the pallbearers had to move immaculately positioned chairs out of the way to make room to lift the open casket onto a plinth.
Those closest to him said their goodbyes, and his son Edinho said a prayer as they gathered together.
As the night set in, the queue still snaked around neighboring streets and the festival mood showed no signs of stopping.
The new President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will arrive this morning before Pelé’s coffin is paraded through the streets of Santos, 24 hours after he arrived.
Pelé’s final resting place will be a “vertical cemetery” – a high-rise block just 200 meters away from the stadium, close enough to still hear the crowd roar.