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Susan Walsh, Associated Press
Former Copper Hills and Utah football standout Sealver Siliga, far left, smiles as President Barack Obama holds a signed New England Patriots football helmet during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2015, to honor the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots for their Super Bowl XLIX victory.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is honoring the New England Patriots for winning the Super Bowl despite a "huge distraction and media circus."

Obama recognized the football champions Thursday during a White House ceremony on the South Lawn.

The president said "that whole story got blown out of proportion," referring to an investigation of underinflated footballs, as the crowd chuckled.

Continuing to honor sports teams for their community service, he thanked the Patriots for visiting hospitals and schools in their community and wounded veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Former Utes and Copper Hills standout Sealver Siliga was front-and-center for the team photograph with the president.

Head coach Bill Belichick presented Obama with a Patriots jersey and signed helmet and called him the "ultimate Patriot," despite Obama's allegiance to his beloved Chicago Bears.

The Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX.