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The crowds were sparse, but spirits were high as New York's politicians led an endless stream of high school bands up Fifth Avenue in the 52nd annual Columbus Day Parade Monday.

Like most of the crowd, a beaming Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was celebrating two causes close to his heart -- New York's immigrant heritage and the weekend triumph of the World Series-bound Yankees.

Getting ready to lead hundreds of police officers up a parade route festooned with Italian flags, the mayor -- who has lately been fashioning himself a champion of immigrants -- tried to broaden the day's appeal.

"People coming here from all over the world . . . that's what this parade is all about," he said. "For me, it's actually filled with a great deal of emotion and feeling about immigration."

Parade-goers, basking in temperatures that soared into the 70s, had plenty of space to spread out behind the blue police barriers, but their enthusiasm offered some compensation for their small numbers.

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