Weekend:  Chance of Precipitation: Fri: 30% / Sat: 20% / Sun: 20%.

  64 °

Doppler Radar |  Pollen Count |  Video Forecasts |  Weekend Weather Forecast |  10-Day Forecast

Sports
News provided by MSNBC
Tony Stewart's return to race track ends early

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) Tony Stewart climbed from his battered car, took a big gulp of water, and surveyed the damage. His night was done. Not the way he wanted to come back to racing. In his first event since his sprint car struck and killed a fellow driver, Stewart slammed the wall twice and settled for a dismal 41st-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, leaving him in a must-win situation next weekend at Richmond to make NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. "I wish we could have had a better effort and a better finish for him," crew chief Chad Johnston said. "We'll go on to Richmond and hope we can do better there." When Stewart pulled his No. 14 car into the garage, he stayed behind the wheel while his crew jacked it up and went to work. A few minutes later, he climbed out, chatted briefly with Johnston, and looked under the hood. When he realized nothing could be done, Stewart headed through the garage to his hauler parked on the other side. He showed no emotion and didn't say anything as he was trailed by reporters. "I went into today with some pretty good hopes of finishing well," Johnston said. "It just didn't work out." Stewart first went into the wall on lap 122 through no fault of his own. Kyle Busch's car drifted high coming out of turn 2 on a restart, catching the front end of Stewart's machine and sending them both into the wall. The No. 14 headed to the pits for work to the right side, then rolled back onto the track in 21st place. Fifty laps after the initial problem, Stewart blew a right front tire and slammed into the wall even harder. With sparks flying from the damaged car, he eased it back to the pit lane and went straight to the garage. It didn't take long to determine the car was beyond repair. He barely made it past the halfway point of the race. "It was good to see him back," said Mike Arning, a spokesman for Stewart-Haas Racing. "Part of that healing process for him was getting back in the race car. This is what he's done since he was 8 years old. This is his family. He's 43 years old. He's not married. He doesn't have children. It's who he is and what he knows." Having skipped the last three Sprint Cup races, his team saying he needed time to grieve, Stewart received a big cheer from the crowd when he was introduced in Atlanta. Many fans wrote notes of encouragement on the pavement at the entrance to his garage stall. "Welcome back Tony." "Go Get Em Smoke." Starting 12th, Stewart ran in the top 10 through the early stages of the race, getting as high as fourth though he never seriously challenged for the lead. "I thought he was pretty strong all weekend," fellow driver Kyle Larson said. "It was cool to see Tony back on the track. ... He's a tough competitor and really fun to race with." He wound up beating only two other cars in the 43-driver field. The No. 14 was loaded onto the hauler and the crew changed out of their suits, long looks on their faces as their focus shifted to Richmond. Stewart, his racing suit pulled halfway down, headed to his motor home surrounded by security officers and wasn't seen again. Stewart went into seclusion after his car struck 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt-track race in upstate New York, a case that is still under investigation by law enforcement authorities. Normally, drivers must compete in every event to be eligible for the championship, but NASCAR granted a waiver to Stewart under a rule intended for primarily for medical issues. Even so, the only way for the three-time Cup champion to qualify for the playoff was to win at either Atlanta or Richmond. He's down to his final shot. Whether Stewart makes the Chase or not, he felt like he needed to be with his team to help him cope with Ward's death. In his only comments of the weekend, he said "this is something that will definitely affect my life forever." "This is a sadness and a pain I hope no one has to experience in their life," he added. Stewart's fellow Cup drivers welcomed him back. "Hopefully this is the step in the right direction for what he needs to get better," said Denny Hamlin, who finished third in Atlanta. Ward was struck after he stepped onto the track to confront Stewart, angry over a collision with the NASCAR star that knocked Ward out of the race. Authorities said Friday that the probe into Ward's death will last at least another two weeks. No decision has been made about whether Stewart will face charges. But for now, it's on to Richmond. "We're just taking it one day at a time, one week at a time," Arning said. "This is uncharted territory for all of us." --- Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:38:00 +0000
Kahne holds off Kenseth to win Atlanta shootout

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) Kasey Kahne grabbed the lead on the restart following a caution with 23 laps remaining and held off Matt Kenseth in a two-lap shootout to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night. Kahne's first win of the season earned him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint cup. Kenseth also qualified for the Chase on points. Denny Hamlin was third, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick. Meanwhile, Tony Stewart's much-anticipated return to racing ended a little more than halfway through the race. Stewart hit the wall for the second time after his right front tire blew out on Lap 172, ending his night with a 41st-place finish. It was Stewart's first race since the sprint car he was driving struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. in an Aug. 9 race at a dirt track in upstate New York. The fatal wreck is still under investigation. With only two laps remaining and Kahne holding a solid lead over Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch collided, forcing a caution flag and the first shootout. Harvick, who led 195 laps, had contact with Joey Logano in heavy traffic and hit the wall on the restart, bringing another caution flag and a second shootout. Kahne, who had four fresh tires, started behind Kenseth and Hamlin on the final restart. Harvick, who also won the Nationwide Series race on Saturday night, started from the pole and led the first 80 laps. Logano, who won last week at Bristol, finished 14th. Stewart's problems started when he went into the wall earlier in the race following a collision with Kyle Busch. Kenseth began the night fifth in the points race, but not yet locked into the Chase because he had no wins. Kenseth needed to finish seventh or better to secure his place in the playoffs. After leading the final 159 laps of his dominant Nationwide series win on Saturday night, Harvick resumed his mastery of the Atlanta Motor Speedway track. Starting from his series-leading sixth pole of the season, Harvick led the first 80 laps, giving him a combined 239 consecutive laps led at the track over two races. Hamlin passed Harvick for the lead after Jeff Gordon, who had been second, blew a tire and slid into the wall on turn 3 on the 78th lap, forcing a yellow flag. Stewart started 12th and opened strong, moving up to sixth in the first five laps. Driving high on the track, three-wide at times, he made two more passes to move to fourth a few laps later. He fell back to 12th before his first big setback. Busch, attempting to move to the top of the track, cut in front of Stewart, forcing Stewart into the wall. After two visits to pit row for repairs, Stewart didn't last long. Only 50 laps later, he hit the wall on turn 2 after his right front tire blew. This time he drove his more heavily damaged car to the garage, and his race was over. Brad Keselowski was fourth when a collision with Josh Wise ended his night with 28 laps remaining. Ty Dillon, making his Sprint Cup debut, finished 25th. Harvick had a scare early in the race when a small animal ran across the track in front of his car. He told his crew a cat ran across the track, but later it was discovered to be a squirrel, which was found hiding near turn 3. --- Follow Charles Odum on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CharlesOdum

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:08:00 +0000
AP source: Chiefs' Smith agrees to 4-yr extension

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) When he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason, quarterback Alex Smith professed his admiration for coach Andy Reid and his excitement at playing for the storied franchise. Now, he could have that opportunity for at least four more years. Smith signed a $68 million extension Sunday to remain with the Chiefs through the 2018 season, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team did not disclose the terms of the contract. Smith, who is due $7.5 million this season, will receive $45 million in new guarantees. "It was a priority of ours to get this deal done and keep Alex in a Chiefs uniform long term," Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. "Alex is a proven leader on and off the field. He is a special individual with a lot of ability and we are fortunate to have him here." Smith and his agent, Tom Condon, had been discussing an extension for several months, and both sides were hopeful that a deal would be reached by the regular season. But with the Chiefs opening against Tennessee next weekend, time was quickly running out. "John and his staff along with Tom and his group have worked hard to get this deal done. They've done a nice job," Reid said in a statement. "Alex is a smart, talented football player that has adapted well to our offensive scheme. He also, obviously, has had a tremendous amount of success as a quarterback in this league. We as a team are very happy to have Alex as our quarterback." The Kansas City Star first reported that Smith had reached an agreement. The former No. 1 overall draft pick joins a wave of quarterbacks who have recently signed long-term extensions, including the Bengals' Andy Dalton and the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick. Smith has not played well in the preseason, throwing two interceptions in the red zone in his final outing against Minnesota. But he's been hampered by an offensive line in turmoil, an injury to running back Jamaal Charles that kept him out two weeks of training camp, and a suspect group of wide receivers that will start the season without suspended star Dwayne Bowe. "I feel good. I mean, I feel great," Smith said last week. "We got some good work, some things to learn from to get better, but I do - I do feel confident in what we're doing." Smith's deal is important for the Chiefs on other fronts, too. Now that he's under contract, they can turn their attention toward a long-term deal with Pro Bowl pass rusher Justin Houston. And if they fail to reach an agreement with him, the Chiefs could put the franchise tag on Houston without worrying about losing Smith to free agency. After arriving in Kansas City for a pair of second-round draft picks, Smith had possibly the best season of his career. He threw for a career-high 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns against only seven interceptions, even while skipping a meaningless regular-season finale. More importantly, he took a downtrodden team that had won two games before his arrival to an 11-5 record and the playoffs. Smith threw for 378 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-44 loss to the Colts, setting playoff franchise record with 30 completions and 46 attempts. Smith's won-loss record the past three seasons is 30-9-1, trailing only the Patriots' Tom Brady, Packers' Aaron Rodgers and Saints' Drew Brees in wins among QBs with at least 30 starts. Now with a year in Reid's system, Smith thinks he can be even better this season. "It's always a progression. It's not like we've arrived anywhere," he said recently. "I mean, last year is a great example of where we started the season and where we ended it. Every season is like that. "There are ups and downs along the way throughout the season, but you've got to continue to progress. You want to be playing your best football as the season goes on and into late in the year. So, you're never just at a place. You're always striving to be moving forward." Now, Smith knows that he'll be moving forward with Kansas City. --- AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Sun, 31 Aug 2014 23:56:00 +0000
49er Ray McDonald accused of domestic violence

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested early Sunday on felony domestic violence charges after officers responded to a home in an upscale neighborhood, San Jose police said. Sgt. Heather Randol, a police spokeswoman, declined to discuss the circumstances that led to McDonald's arrest, saying only that officers had probable cause to take him into custody. McDonald, 29, was later released from Santa Clara County Jail after posting $25,000 bail. He wouldn't discuss what happened with television news reporters who approached him after he posted bail. "I can't say too much, not right now, but the truth will come out. Everybody knows the kind of person that I am," McDonald said. "I'm a good-hearted person." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced tougher penalties this past week for players accused of domestic violence. The move followed scrutiny over Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's two-game penalty stemming from his arrest on an assault charge in February. "The 49ers organization is aware of the recent reports regarding Ray McDonald and we take such matters seriously," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "As we continue to gather the facts, we will reserve further comment." McDonald has been playing for San Francisco since he was drafted as a third-round pick in 2007. The incident is the latest blow to what has been one of the NFL's fiercest defenses. On Friday, linebacker Aldon Smith received a nine-game suspension for what the league called violations of its substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 01:42:00 +0000
Ferrer out in first big upset among men at US Open

NEW YORK (AP) Gilles Simon felt cheated by the weatherman. Instead of the cool day he was expecting, he faced the prospect of playing a top player who had dominated him in the past on one of the hottest, muggiest days of the U.S. Open so far. In the end, the skinny Frenchman overcame both, beating fourth-seeded David Ferrer 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 to pull off the biggest upset to hit the men's draw yet. Ferrer was the first of the top 10 seeds to go down, and nobody was more surprised than the 26th-seeded Simon. "I was not really prepared," he said with a smile, "because everyone was talking about the cooler day with maybe some rain. "It was really, really difficult to play. It was hot and it was so humid. I never sweat like this in the last 10 years." Simon, who was ranked as high as No. 6 in 2009 and cracked the top 20 earlier this year, came into the match with a 1-5 record against Ferrer, and most of those losses weren't even close. Simon said that actually helped him to play more relaxed, as if he had nothing to lose. He confounded the Spaniard by mixing up the spin, height and pace of his shots that kept Ferrer out of sync on grueling rallies that often went past 20 shots, the longest lasting 30. Ferrer piled up an uncharacteristic 52 unforced errors, nearly twice that of Simon, who sensed the Spaniard was tiring in the 90-degree heat. "I felt he was in trouble," Simon said. "It's not very often that him and me are tired like this just after two hours, but I feel we run a lot." Ferrer acknowledged as much after the match, saying, "It was not easy for me. I was not good with my fitness." It marked Ferrer's second straight early Grand Slam exit after a second-round loss to Andrey Kuznetsov at Wimbledon. That ended Ferrer's streak of 10 straight major quarterfinals. Simon moves on to play 14th-seeded Marin Cilic, a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over 18th-seeded Kevin Anderson, for a shot at the quarterfinals. That would match Simon's deepest Grand Slam run, at the Australian Open in 2009. He will no doubt pay closer attention to the weather for that one.

Sun, 31 Aug 2014 23:15:00 +0000
Dunn dealt to A's, could be his last shot playoffs

CHICAGO (AP) One more shot at the playoffs for Adam Dunn before he says he's probably done. The slugger with 460 career home runs but zero at-bats in the postseason was traded by the Chicago White Sox to Oakland on Sunday, possibly giving the contending A's the power boost they need for the stretch. The White Sox also sent cash to Oakland while acquiring minor league pitcher Nolan Sanburn. Because the deal was made before Sept. 1, Dunn will be eligible for the postseason if the suddenly sluggish Athletics make the playoffs. The 34-year-old Dunn has played more games - 1,976 - without reaching the postseason than any active major leaguer. This is his 14th season and, with a contract set to expire, said he's planning to retire after this year. Dunn waived his no-trade clause and approved the deal. "This is probably going to be it," he said. "I think that also weighed a lot, too. This is an opportunity. I've been playing a long time and haven't got this opportunity, so I'm going to try to make the most of it." Dunn is hitting .220 with 20 homers and 54 RBIs. Earlier in his career, he played for Cincinnati, Arizona and Washington. Oakland holds the top wild-card spot in the American League. The A's were second in the AL West after three straight losses to the division-leading Los Angeles Angels, and hadn't scored in 22 innings going into Sunday's series finale. "I think this is just an opportunity for him that he should've taken," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It came about and you talk to him about it, you're happy that he gets a chance to go do this. I think even if he does happen to hang it up after this year, he'll at least get a shot at doing this." The A's trailed the Angels by four games, their largest deficit since May 2013. The Athletics were looking to add a hitter after trading Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for starter Jon Lester before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline. "We're trying to do whatever we can to get some offense going here," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "The guy has a history of hitting homers and getting on base, and I know he's excited about being with us." Along with Dunn, the White Sox have traded away second baseman Gordon Beckham and outfielder Alejandro De Aza in the past week and a half. Dunn has struggled in four seasons with the White Sox, mostly as a designated hitter. He has played first base and some outfield, and even made his first career pitching appearance this season in a mop-up role. The White Sox envisioned making playoff runs when they signed Dunn to a four-year, $56 million contract in December 2010. Dunn was coming off back-to-back 38-homer seasons with Washington but the plan didn't unfold as envisioned. "I wish things would've worked out better, but it didn't," he said. Dunn's first season in Chicago was brutal. His average dropped more than 100 points to .159 while he hit just 11 homers in 2011, and he never really lived up to expectations after that. He became a lightning rod for fans with his high strikeout totals, finishing one shy of the record with 222 in 2012, but he remained popular in the clubhouse. "Some people like to lump it all together," teammate Paul Konerko said. "We know the first year was a rough year, but if you look at a lot of his time here, he kind of did what he was supposed to be doing." General manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox started to zero in on the Oakland deal on Saturday. He discussed the possibility with Dunn, and the veteran waived his no-trade clause. "This deal, we feel real good about Sanburn," Hahn said. "He's a young power arm with good pitch ability and good secondary pitches." He said Sanburn will likely start next season in Double-A. As for Dunn's time in Chicago? "Obviously, we were both disappointed that we didn't accomplish on the field what we had hoped when the deal was originally signed four years ago," Hahn said. "He was brought here as part of a plan to help us win championships in that window, and it didn't happen. From that standpoint, I think we're all disappointed. From the clubhouse standpoint, he was outstanding." The White Sox also called up first baseman Andy Wilkins and Scott Snodgress from Triple-A Charlotte, reinstated outfielder Moises Sierra from the 15-day disabled list and outrighted pitcher Nestor Molina to Double-A Birmingham on Sunday. Wilkins, who had 30 home runs and 85 RBIs for Charlotte, started at first base on Sunday. Dunn, meanwhile, gets to play in meaningful games down the stretch. "I think that's what's probably really exciting for him at this point, is to come in here and play meaningful games in September and hopefully help a team get to the postseason," Melvin said.

Sun, 31 Aug 2014 20:33:00 +0000
Roger Federer advances in four sets at US Open

NEW YORKTrudging through a thicket of heavy air,Roger Federerlooked lost in a fog while his shots strayed into the alleys. A lethargic Federer lost 10 straight points to open his third-round match withMarcel Granollers, and the Spaniard stormed out to a 5-2 lead before a lightning storm caused a two-hour delay. When play resumed, Federer fell into a one-set hole and was one point from slipping down a break in the second. One pulsating retrieval energized Federer for a run of all-court brilliance. After a sloppy start, Federer delivered his most dynamic tennis of the tournament, dismissing Marcel Granollers, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the 14th straight year. Conditions created a strange atmosphere, and the attacking skills of both menthey combined for 87 trips to the net and played sharp angles and drop shotscreated moments of throwback tennis reminiscent of Forest Hills' lawns. The steamiest day of the event grew menacing as the pair walked out on court. White lights above Arthur Ashe Stadium bled into a darkening haze, a swirling wind whistled through the chair umpire's microphone, and local weather reports issued severe storm and flood warning alerts for the New York area. Struggling to tame his forehand in the swirl, Federer spit out four forehand errors in the opening game. The 42nd-ranked Granollers doesn't hit the ball hard, but he can take it early. He buzzed through 10 straight points, winning 12 of the first 13 for a 3-0 lead. Tested for the first time on serve at 30-all, Granollers bent low for a sharp-angled forehand volley winner, eventually holding at love for 5-2. About 19 minutes after play began, tournament referee Brian Earley pulled the pair off court due to lightning strikes in the distance. Play resumed about two hours and six minutes later, and this time Federer brought his forehand and some pop to the party. Zapping a cross-court forehand, he broke back for 4-5. But Federer played a miserable 10th game. His serve-and-volley effort didn't surprise Granollers, who spun a backhand pass down the line to conclude a bizarre set. At this point, with day-session ticket holders giving way to evening entrants, there were probably less than 2,000 fans scattered throughout the cavernous 23,771-seat Ashe Stadium. Failing to convert three break points in the opening game of the second set, Federer denied a break point in the second game. An accomplished doubles player, Granollers used the drop volley through the first set and hit a fine dropper to open the third game. Then things changed. Exploding off the mark, Federer was streaking right at net when he flicked a stunning backhand get that incited the crowd and kick-started his game. He went on to break serve, sparking a run of eight straight games where he elevated his level to a place Granollers just couldn't reach. Finding his opponent's sometime disjointed forehand, Federer drew the error, scoring his third straight break to level the match after 63 minutes of official playand more than three hours after first ball. The run of eight straight games finally came to an end when as Granollers held for 1-3 in the third set. Wearing a white towel around his neck, Granollers gazed at the court with the vacant expression of a man without answers. The lanky Barcelona native doesn't possess the power to hang with Federer from the baseline, and he lacked the legs to run down the winners streaming from the second seed's red-and-black Pro Staff. In breezing through the third set, Federer hit 17 winners to Granollers' two. Despite the slow start and the fact he converted just nine of 20 break-point chances, Federer should be satisfied with the fact he turned up his game considerably, served with authority (13 aces, no double faults, won 56 percent of second-serve points), and finished with 57 winners against 27 unforced errors. The five-time U.S. Open champion faces another Spaniard, No. 17 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, for a quarterfinal spot.

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 02:17:00 +0000
Sam cut from Rams, but may still have NFL future

ST. LOUIS (AP) Not long after Michael Sam waved to an adoring crowd at Missouri's season opener, he looked down at his cell phone. It was 3 p.m. CT, the deadline for NFL teams to pare rosters to 53 players. And the Rams coach was talking to the players who didn't make the cut. He headed into the locker room. At some point, his phone rang with the bad news: He didn't make the cut. Twenty others were cut by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, all of them mere footnotes. For Sam, it meant a roadblock in his journey to become the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster. Over and over, coach Jeff Fisher said, it was purely a football decision. "I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike," Fisher said. "I really was, and I don't say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do." The seventh-round draft pick projected confidence while scrutinized at least as closely as Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. He's been cheered by athletes and celebrities, denigrated by just a few. In the end, the defensive end couldn't make a team stocked with pass rushers and lost out to undrafted Ethan Westbrooks, who proved more productive and more versatile. Fisher believes Sam has an NFL future, and it still could be with the Rams. If he's not picked up by another team, he could land on the St. Louis practice squad. "I can't go there right now," Fisher said. "Coaches don't talk about practice squads because we have to see what happens. We'll know better tomorrow afternoon." Wherever he lands, Fisher said "there will be no challenge, no challenges whatsoever." "He's not about drawing attention to himself," Fisher said. "He kept his head down and worked and you can't ask anything more out of any player for that matter." On Twitter, roughly an hour after he was cut, Sam wrote "The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I've always known. The journey continues." He also thanked the Rams and city of St. Louis on Twitter, adding that he looks forward to a long and successful career. Sam was introduced to the Missouri crowd in the end zone alongside defensive E.J. Gaines, a sixth-round pick who made the team. He blew a kiss and waved before returning to the sideline, then posed for a few pictures before starting to look at his phone, and then headed for the locker room. Fisher personally delivered the news to the 20 others released in meetings Friday and Saturday, but didn't seem to mind that Sam was out of town, visiting his alma mater. The conversation was perfunctory, with plans for a face-to-face meeting on Sunday. "He said `Yes sir,' and he said, `I understand.' He said, `Thanks for the opportunity,' and I said, `Mike, I'm looking forward to visiting with you tomorrow,' and he goes, `I am, too."' Sam was the SEC co-defensive player of the year at Missouri and had been projected as a mid-round draft pick. His stock fell after a poor combine showing not long after he came out as gay in February, and the Rams took him with the 249th overall pick out of 256. He kissed his boyfriend as a national television audience looked on, and arrived brimming with confidence and with a quick retort for anyone who contended he was in the NFL only because he came out. Fisher was proud to have made the landmark pick, but made clear from the start that Sam would be judged on talent. The cameras followed, but the extra attention did not seem to faze Sam or his teammates. Veteran defensive end Chris Long noted rosters are always made up of players from different backgrounds. Players said Sam was part of their family. Sam shed weight before training camp to be faster for special teams duty, reporting at 257 pounds. But after the preseason opener, Fisher said he'd have to make the team based on defensive end play. Sam came out publicly following his final season at Missouri, though he had told his teammates before it began. It was no distraction. Missouri tied the school record with 12 wins and won the SEC Eastern Division and Sam had 11 1-2 sacks. Sam was lightly regarded out of Hitchcock, Texas, a town of about 7,000 along the Gulf Coast about 40 miles southeast of Houston. His first two years at Missouri, Sam backed up Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith, both of whom are in the NFL. From the start, teammates seemed to like having Sam around. His energy was infectious and, if there were problems, they stayed behind closed doors. Publicly, Sam was just another late-round pick trying to make the Rams, which, like other NFL teams, held sensitivity training early in camp. The Oprah Winfrey Network put off a planned documentary on Sam, saying it would allow him to focus on his dream. At one point, Sam's Rams jersey was the No. 2 seller among rookies online, trailing only Cleveland's Johnny Manziel, and Sam was among just 10 draftees selected by the NFL to be featured on commemorative coins. Sam headed to the ESPY Awards to pick up the Arthur Ashe Courage award. He got a hug from Hall of Famer Jim Brown on his way to the stage and fought back tears throughout his speech. He told the audience: "Great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself." ---- Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Sat, 30 Aug 2014 23:52:00 +0000
Will Power wins IndyCar series title behind Kanaan

FONTANA, Calif. (AP) Will Power won his first IndyCar Series championship Saturday night, finishing ninth in the final race and claiming the season title after a career filled with agonizing misses. Tony Kanaan won the 500-mile, double-points race under the lights at Fontana for his first victory of the season, but Power drove an intelligent race with just enough aggression to preserve his healthy points lead. After briefly taking the lead late, Power comfortably held off second-place teammate Helio Castroneves and wrapped up Team Penske's first IndyCar title since 2006. "That's 15 years of hard work," Power said. "Started taking it seriously in 2000, and that's 15 years of hard work. ... It's just surreal, man. I can't believe it." Starting from the back after a poor qualifying run, Power patiently picked his way through the field to the front. After a restart with 62 laps to go, the Australian roared into the lead with authority, showing he wasn't about to back into his first title. With much more relief than elation, Power celebrated overcoming his still-fresh memories of heartbreak in recent seasons. He led the IndyCar points standings heading into the final race in 2010 and 2012, and he led with two races left in 2011 - but he failed to claim the title each time. "That was one of the hardest races ever," Power said. "Oh my God, I was crying. It just went on and on. I slowly made up position, and it was great. ... I'm so mentally exhausted right now. My hands are numb from holding onto the wheel so tight." Power's mother and wife watched from the pit area, sometimes turning their heads away in nervousness as the laps wound down and the specter of Power's past loomed. They didn't need to worry: The pride of Toowoomba, Australia, finally is a champion. Roger Penske's team completed a dynamic season by claiming three of the top four spots in the overall standings, with fourth place wrapped up by Juan Pablo Montoya, who led the most laps at Fontana. Power and Penske jointly held up an Australian flag on the victory podium before Power raised the Astor Cup. "Tonight shows you the strength of the team and what we did all year," Penske said. "What a night. Couldn't ask for anything more." Castroneves was essentially finished after a drive-through penalty for a pit entry violation with 31 laps to go, sliding out of the groove onto the track on his way into the pits. The penalty paved a championship finish for Power, who has been dinged numerous times this season by pit road penalties. For the sixth time in his career, Castroneves missed the title despite entering the final two IndyCar races in the top two in the points standings. "It stings a little bit, but that's what motivates me," Castroneves said. "It's good to be upset when you finish second in a championship. It gives me another reason to come back stronger next year and fix what we can fix to win a championship." Power beat Castroneves by 62 points for the title. Scott Dixon, the 2013 series champion, ended up third in the standings after a strong finish to the season. Power struggled in qualifying Friday night, finishing next-to-last in the 22-driver field. Rookie Mikhail Aleshin's frightening crash late in a practice session reduced the field, but it didn't change Power's strategy. Power intentionally dropped back to last on the opening lap, avoiding any chance of early trouble before attempting to work his way up the field. He moved ahead steadily and cautiously during the first 100 laps, cracking the top 10 with little drama while other teams struggled with downforce and speeding penalties. Kanaan earned his first victory of the season for his new Target Chip Ganassi Racing team, and the 17th of his career. The Brazilian is the 11th driver to win a race this season, tying the North American open-wheel record set in CART in 2000 and 2001.

Sun, 31 Aug 2014 05:56:00 +0000
Golson leads No. 17 Irish to 48-17 win over Rice

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Everett Golson threw touchdown passes of 75 and 53 yards and ran for three more scores in his return after missing the 2013 season for academic impropriety, leading No. 17 Notre Dame to a 48-17 victory over Rice on Saturday. Golson was 14-of-22 passing for 295 yards and ran for 41 yards on 12 carries. He also had two near-misses on long pass attempts. He scored on an 11-yard run on a planned keeper, a 14-yard scramble and a 4-yard run on a blown handoff. The Irish (1-0) were without five players who are scheduled to appear before the school's honor code committee after being investigated for possible cheating. It was the sixth straight season-opening loss for the Owls (0-1).

Sat, 30 Aug 2014 22:57:00 +0000