Falcons to allow limited number of fans at games in Mercedes-Benz Stadium starting Oct. 11

The Atlanta Falcons will welcome back fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a limited capacity beginning Oct. 11 against the Carolina Panthers, an official announced Tuesday.

The team did not host any fans for the Sept. 13 season opener against the Seattle Seahawks while adjusting to the coronavirus pandemic. The latest decision to allow fans was partly based on the decline in COVID-19 cases in the state of Georgia.

The team said all fans will be required to wear masks.

"We are thrilled to invite fans of both the Falcons and Atlanta United [soccer team] back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium," said Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment. "Having fans watch from alternative locations was a difficult but important decision. It's been challenging for both teams to play without fans, but their well-being as well as the safety of our associates and fans was paramount."

In a statement, officials said they will continue to "collaborate with national and local health officials and reserve the right to return to play without fans should current conditions related to the global pandemic change.''

Stadium protocols will be tested this Sunday when the 0-2 Falcons host 500 friends, family and associates for their Week 3 home matchup with the 2-0 Chicago Bears.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium originally planned to host between 10,000 and 20,000 fans until the pandemic altered those initial plans. Officials have not yet determined a range for capacity come Oct. 11, but it is anticipated to be a low number inside the $1.5 billion, 71,000-seat stadium.