NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The New Orleans Saints headed for northern California on Sunday, leaving several days early as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the city under a mandatory evacuation.

The team has a Thursday night preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, and will practice Monday through Wednesday at San Jose State. The Saints’ flight left Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m.

“We decided to leave as late as possible on Sunday to give everyone enough time to take care of their personal situations and to ensure that everyone’s family was out of harm’s way,” team spokesman Greg Bensel said.

Team officials expect to decide after Thursday night’s game whether to return to New Orleans.

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