Veterans of the Persian Gulf war were honored at St. Patrick's Day parades in Boston, where about 500,000 people enjoyed sunny skies, and in Chicago, where 100,000 came out despite wet weather.

Showers fell on several other St. Patrick's Day parades Sunday, but that didn't keep hundreds of thousands of people from celebrating.About 150,000, many wearing green ponchos and carrying green umbrellas, marched in a downpour in Kansas City, Mo., and the rain was actually welcome in San Francisco, where five years of drought have forced strict water rationing.

Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn dedicated the city's 90th annual St. Patrick's Day parade to troops who served in the gulf war.

"We're very glad to welcome them home," Flynn said before the two-hour parade. "This was the most enthusiastic crowd response since President Kennedy marched in the parade."

Among the marchers in Chicago were 10 veterans from the Persian Gulf. About 3,000 residents of Valdosta, Ga., came out in rain and cold temperatures to welcome the members of the 69th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

Ireland, W.Va. - population 50 - celebrated with jigs, a parade and a 10-kilometer race.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, a man was shot and killed in a Protestant district of Belfast and police found a bomb along a Catholic parade route, marring St. Patrick's Day celebrations in strife-torn Northern Ireland, police said.

A plot to bomb a traditional St. Patrick's Day parade in Toomebridge, 20 miles north of Belfast, was also discovered. Police were tipped off that bombs had been planted along a planned parade route used by thousands of members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a group with Catholic membership.

Throughout the day, more than 200,000 pilgrims took part in a series of major parades across the British-administered Northern Ireland province to celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Special church services were held and the church leaders appealed for an end to sectarian violence, which has caused more than 2,800 deaths in 21 years.