Current co-worker of mine had to pay for his two tickets. I've seen his ring, pictures, everything from that week. I have no reason to believe he would lie to me about having to purchase the tickets.
I just know that I, and everyone else in the department I worked in, paid nothing for the tickets we received from Mr. Richardson. He also sent our department to the St Louis playoff game for free, including airfare, tickets and field passes.
I'm not saying you friend is lying. I'm just saying that everyone I worked with got a free trip to the Super Bowl, including multiple receptions/parties and excursions in and around the Houston area (NASA and the NFL Experience to name a couple).