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John Norris, second from left, gave his tickets to Afghanistan veteran Brett Bondurant, far right, after Bondurant just missed getting tickets.
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John Norris,Vietnam veteran and Brett Bondurant, Afghanistan veteran.
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Barney Blank and Shannon Smith of Westwood waited at the Newport Kroger Marketplace since 4 a.m. Saturday for a chance to receive tickets to the Bengals vs. Chargers game.
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Veterans pick up tickets to Bengals playoff game Kroger gives away tickets to Bengals playoff game to veterans
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Newport Kroger Marketplace Bengals' tickets go quickly

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CINCINNATI -- Despite the cold, lines began forming early Saturday morning at area Kroger stores, as active and veteran military personnel lined up for free tickets to Sunday's Bengals playoff game.

Two military veterans, identified as Barney and Shannon, stood in line since 4 a.m. Saturday to score tickets to the game versus the San Diego Chargers at the Newport Kroger Marketplace store.

Within a half-an-hour of the 10 a.m. start time for the giveaway in Newport, all 200 tickets at that location were given away. Two tickets per military personnel was allowed by the store.

In what was a touching moment between two veterans, John Norris, a Vietnam War veteran from Newport, gave his tickets to Brett Bondurant, a veteran of Afghanistan who lost his legs during an attack. Bondurant just missed receiving tickets.

Norris said he was fine with tailgating for Sunday's game and that Bondurant deserved the right to go to the game.

In an effort to assist in reaching a sellout so the game will be televised in local markets, the Cincinnati/Dayton Division of Kroger purchased a "large quantity" of tickets to the game between the Bengals and the San Diego Chargers to give to military personnel, the organization announced Friday morning.

About 150 people were lined up outside of the The Newport Pavilion Kroger Marketplace by 8:30 a.m. Saturday, according to an employee at the store. Amelia's Kroger reported 30 to 40 people outside of the store at the same time.

All  participating Kroger stores handing tickets starting at 10 a.m. reported people waiting for the giveaway. Ticket giveaway times were staggered between seven Kroger locations.

"We actually just started thinking about this in the last couple days when we started hearing the news," said Rachael Betzler, a representative for Kroger Co. "We kind of wanted to see how things were going to go and see if we needed to step in and help out."

Customers needed to show their Military ID for two free tickets to Sunday's game. The offer was valid while supplies last.

P&G announced it had tickets to help avoid an NFL-mandated blackout as well.

“On behalf of the entire Bengals organization, I want to thank Procter & Gamble and Kroger for their great leadership, helping the team and Cincinnati region get the game sold out and on television for everyone," said Katie Blackburn, Bengals executive vice president.

The game will be played at 1:05 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati in front of a capacity crowd of more than 65,000 fans.

The distribution will take place on Saturday, Jan. 4 at the following Kroger store locations:

Kroger Store Locations

  • Blue Ash - 4100 Hunt Road, 4-6 p.m.
  • Amelia 262 - Main Street, 10 a.m. - noon
  • Liberty Township - 7300 Yankee Road, noon - 2 p.m.
  • Newport - 130 Pavilion Parkway, 10 a.m. - noon
  • Dent - 5830 Harrison Avenue, 1-3 p.m.
  • Austin Landing - 10101 Landing Way 10 a.m. - noon
  • Englewood - 885 Union Boulevard, noon - 2 p.m.

The Cincinnati-based grocery store chain did not indicate how many tickets it purchased but as of Thursday morning there were 7,200 tickets available, according to the Bengals organization.

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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