Can you please try with another application server, e.g. JBoss or Glassfish?
I am having trouble making my application play with Glassfish, but I did try using an older version of richfaces. I switched to 3.2.0.GA and the excessive image loading in IE does not seem to be a problem anymore. However, the page becomes very slow in IE (unusably slow), and the memory used continues to increase as I test the inplace elements.
Just an FYI, my page consists of a <rich:tabPanel> containing a <rich:dataList>. Each line in the dataList contains one <rich:inplaceSelect> and one <rich:inplaceInput>. Even for a short list of 4-5 entries, IE can become unresponsive between clicks.
It seems that there are quite a few bugs in this version for the inplace selects and inputs for both IE and FireFox that do not appear in the latest version, 3.2.2.GA.