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Kobe Scores 48 in Return From Suspension (AP)
Philadelphia 76ers' Samuel Dalembert blocks a shot by Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Jan. 6, 2006. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)AP - Kobe Bryant returned from a two-game suspension to hit all seven of his 3-point shots and score 48 points Friday night, and the Los Angeles Lakers ended a five-game losing streak with a 119-93 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.


Virginia Tech Kicks Marcus Vick Off Team (AP)
Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick (5)  watches Florida State drive to the end zone in the third quarter of the ACC Championship game at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., in this Dec. 3, 2005 photo. Vick was dismissed from the team Friday, the result of numerous legal transgressions and his unsportsmanlike conduct in the Gator Bowl. University president Charles Steger announced the dismissal on the same day that coach Frank Beamer met with Vick and his mother in their Hampton Roads home, the school said. Beamer informed them of the decision during the meeting. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)AP - Kicked off the Virginia Tech football team, Marcus Vick hopes to follow his brother into the NFL.


Bill Parcells Staying With Cowboys (AP)
Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells reacts during a game with the St. Louis Rams Sunday, Jan. 1, 2006, in Irving, Texas. Parcells is coming back for at least one more season with the Dallas Cowboys _ and maybe even two. The team announced Friday that Parcells agreed to a new contract through the 2007 season.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)AP - When the season ended, Bill Parcells said he needed a little time off before deciding whether to keep coaching the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, he showed up at his office every day this week.


Riley Probably Won't Coach Next Season (AP)
Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, left, greets members of the Artesia High School basketball team before a screening of 'Glory Road,' Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006, in Los Angeles. The movie depicts Texas Western College's 28-1 season that ended with a stunning defeat of top-ranked Kentucky to win the NCAA basketball championship in 1966. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)AP - Miami Heat coach Pat Riley told ESPN on Friday night that he probably won't coach next season, though he brushed aside the significance of his comments.


Kovalchuk Grabs Goal Lead With Hat Trick (AP)
Atlanta Thrashers' Ilya Kovalchuk, of Russia, right, celebrates with goalie Kari Lehtonen, of Finland, after the Thrashers' 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in an NHL hockey Friday, Jan. 6 2006,.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)AP - Ilya Kovalchuk had his sights set on the NHL's most famous rookie and the league goal-scoring lead. He got them both Friday night.


Ward Says Steelers Can Win Pass-Heavy Game (AP)
AP - The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the playoffs for the 10th time in 14 seasons under coach Bill Cowher, and each year the talk is the same: Win with their running game and their defense.

Bryant comes back to lead Lakers past 76ers (Reuters)
Reuters - A well-rested Kobe Bryant returned from his two-game suspension to score 48 points as the Los Angeles Lakers crushed the Philadelphia 76ers 119-93 to halt a five-game NBA losing skid on Friday.

Blue Jays Trade Corey Koskie to Brewers (AP)
Toronto Blue Jays Corey Koskie watches as he flies out to right field during the third inning against the  Los Angeles Angels in Toronto, Tuesday, July 26, 2005.  Koskie was traded by the Blue Jays to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night, Jan. 6, 2005, for minor league pitcher Brian Wolfe. (AP Photo/Adrian Wyld, CP,file)AP - After the shock of being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers had worn off, the next thing Corey Koskie thought about was steak.


Trinidad Seeks Soccer Tickets Amid Dispute (AP)
AP - Trinidad's government asked the country's soccer federation for World Cup tickets on Friday following allegations of cronyism and ticket price gouging against a top soccer official.

Kiprusoff Gets Sixth Shutout for Flames (AP)
Toronto Maple Leafs' Tie Domi , center,  tries to deflect the puck into the net with his hand as Calgary Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff , left, keeps his eyes on it and Flames' Jordan Leopold tries to push him away during third-period NHL hockey  action in Calgary, Canada, Friday, Jan. 6, 2006. The Flames beat the Leafs, 1-0.(AP Photo/Jeff McIntosh,CP)AP - Tony Amonte scored the only goal and Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for his NHL-leading sixth shutout Friday night as the Calgary Flames beat Toronto 1-0 and snapped the Maple Leafs' six-game winning streak.


Here comes the sun
SEATTLE – With the Seahawks' Super Bowl hopes aglow, Mike Holmgren no longer has clouds over his head.

Bill Parcells staying with Cowboys (AP)
When the season ended, Bill Parcells said he needed a little time off before deciding whether to keep coaching the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, he showed up at his office every day this week. So it wasn't too surprising -- though still a relief to most Cowboys fans -- when the team announced Friday that Parcells agreed to a new contract through 2007.

Vikings hire Childress as coach (AP)
One of the few knocks on new Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress is that he rarely called plays as Philadelphia's offensive coordinator. Childress expects to put those concerns to rest now that he's a head coach. After being hired to replace the fired Mike Tice on Friday, Childress said he will call his own plays with the Vikings and bring the West Coast offense he helped implement in...

Chiefs may get Edwards for 4th-rounder (AP)
The Kansas City Chiefs cleared the way for Herman Edwards to become their new coach, agreeing Friday to a compensation deal with the New York Jets. The Chiefs would give the Jets a surprisingly low fourth-round pick if they hire Edwards, who has ties to the team and general manager Carl Peterson. Because Edwards was still under contract with the Jets, the Chiefs needed to give up something to get...

Bears' Urlacher wins top defensive honor (AP)
Brian Urlacher was a frustrated man a year ago. He was injured and called overrated as the Chicago Bears struggled through their third straight losing season. Now? The Bears are in the playoffs for the first time in four years. And Urlacher, the latest leader of the Monsters of the Midway, won The Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year award Friday.

Bills dismiss five assistant coaches (AP)
The Buffalo Bills fired five assistant coaches Friday, capping a tumultuous week that followed a disappointing season. Head coach Mike Mularkey announced the dismissals of Tim Krumrie (defensive line coach), Don Blackmon (linebackers), Steve Szabo (defensive backs) and Frank Verducci (offensive line).

Pats have big experience edge over Jags (AP)
The New England Patriots have a big edge in postseason experience over Jacksonville, winning three Super Bowls since the Jaguars last reached the playoffs. The Patriots will also be playing at home with some cold temperatures forecast for Saturday night's wild-card playoff game. And, of course, there's Tom Brady at quarterback, Bill Belichick as coach and oddsmakers making them huge favorites.

Young Bucs set for challenge from Skins (AP)
Jon Gruden rejects the notion that his surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already had a successful season. "We don't want to have that loser's mentality about, 'Gee, we overachieved in some people's eyes,' or 'Hey, we've had a good year.' Baloney," Gruden said. "You're not playing in this organization for any other reason than to compete for championships and we want to make the most of our...

Bengals not surprised by underdog role (AP)
They're division champions, playing on their home field against the team they displaced atop the AFC North. And, the Cincinnati Bengals are expected to lose. How can this be? Simple. It has a lot to do with their late-season slide, their playoff inexperience and their first-round opponent. Unlike the Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) know how to win games like the one they'll play Sunday at Paul...

Carolina's Fox heads back to New York (AP)
When the Carolina Panthers were narrowing their 2002 search for a new head coach, owner Jerry Richardson relied heavily on a recommendation he received from the late Wellington Mara. Mara, owner of the New York Giants, pushed Richardson to take a long, hard look at John Fox, his defensive coordinator at the time.

Houston has a problem
The star power is there, but the Rockets' supporting cast doesn't fit into coach Jeff Van Gundy's style of play.

Riley probably won't coach next season (AP)
Miami Heat coach Pat Riley told ESPN on Friday night that he probably won't coach next season, though he brushed aside the significance of his comments. "There's a possibility of that," he said when asked about it after his team's 111-93 loss to the Phoenix Suns. He insisted the statement wasn't new. "I said that already before," Riley said.

Bryant scores 48 in return for Lakers (AP)
Kobe Bryant had a perfect game beyond the arc to take over the NBA scoring lead, and the Los Angeles Lakers saved coach Phil Jackson from a dubious milestone. Back from a two-game suspension, Bryant made all seven of his 3-point shots and scored 48 points Friday night in a 119-93 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Kidd's triple-double sparks red-hot Nets (AP)
Jason Kidd's 69th career triple-double helped New Jersey to its ninth straight victory, while Grant Hill's latest injury left Orlando wondering about its All-Star's future. Kidd had 16 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, and the Nets beat the Magic 113-106 Friday night. Hill scored 14 points in the first half, but reaggravated the strained groin that forced him to have sports hernia surgery before...

Nash directs Suns to easy rout of Heat (AP)
Steve Nash and his Phoenix teammates were flying high at newly renamed U.S. Airways Center on Friday night. Nash dished out 12 assists in a 47-point first quarter and the Suns raced past the depleted Miami Heat 111-93. "It was just one of those freaky quarters," Nash said. "We got hot and kind of got on a roll.

Hornets G Paul hopes for quick return (AP)
Even after tearing a ligament in his thumb, New Orleans point guard Chris Paul isn't ready to accept that he'll miss a basketball game with an injury for the first time he can remember. The team expects Paul -- the league's leading rookie in points, assists and steals -- to miss at least two weeks after the injury during New Orleans' 90-80 win against Portland on Friday night.

Shaq hasn't ruled out playing for U.S. (AP)
Jerry Colangelo, putting together the U.S. basketball team for the 2006 world championships and 2008 Olympics, said Shaquille O'Neal has not ruled out participating. Colangelo, managing director of USA Basketball, spoke to O'Neal on Thursday as part of his meetings with NBA players prior to training camp later this year.

Odd Hamilton 4-point play aids Pistons (AP)
Richard Hamilton caught a pass, missed a 3-pointer and was fouled -- by a coach. Hamilton was credited with the basket because Seattle coach Bob Hill interfered with him in what became a four-point possession, helping the Detroit Pistons pull away late in the fourth quarter of a 97-85 win over the SuperSonics on Friday night.

Ginobili, Spurs hold off Wolves 83-77 (AP)
The San Antonio Spurs had their usual troubles with their free throws on Friday night, until the game was on the line. Manu Ginobili hit all six of his foul shots in the final period, including four in the final 25 seconds, and San Antonio held on for an 83-77 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Spurs were 4-for-11 at the line in the first three quarters, but shot 7-for-8 in the final period.

Harris' OT layup gives Mavs 114-112 win (AP)
The Denver Nuggets stayed in the game with a desperation 3-pointer and a trick play that works maybe once a season. It made the way they lost it seem that much more shocking -- by allowing a run-of-the-mill layup on an unpardonable defensive slip-up. Devin Harris found himself wide open under the basket for an incredibly easy bucket with 2.2 seconds left in overtime Friday night to lift the Dallas...

Power rankings
Despite having lost nearly 200 player games to injury this season, the Flyers have held on to the No. 2 spot in the rankings.

Kovalchuk's hat trick lifts Thrashers (AP)
Ilya Kovalchuk had quite a night for the Atlanta Thrashers: He picked up a hat trick, took over the NHL's goal-scoring lead and even got a chance to taunt Pittsburgh rookie Sidney Crosby. Kovalchuk scored his third goal into an empty net with 44 seconds left Friday, clinching a 6-4 victory over the Penguins that nearly slipped away.

Flames' Kiprusoff shuts out Leafs 1-0 (AP)
The free-flowing NHL hasn't quite made its way to Calgary where defense is still the name of the game for the defending Western Conference champions. Tony Amonte scored the only goal and Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for his NHL-leading and franchise-record sixth shutout of the season Friday night as the Flames beat Toronto 1-0 and snapped the Maple Leafs' six-game winning streak.

Flyers win again on road, top Caps 3-1 (AP)
Peter Forsberg isn't sure what's more impressive: the way the Philadelphia Flyers are piling up points on the road, or the rate at which Simon Gagne is scoring goals. Gagne and Forsberg each had a goal and an assist, and the Flyers stretched their road-point streak to 14 games with a 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

'Canes stay hot at home, top Isles 4-1 (AP)
The home wins keep piling up for the Carolina Hurricanes. Cory Stillman scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period to lead the Hurricanes past the New York Islanders 4-1 on Friday night, giving Carolina its eighth victory at home in nine games. Kevyn Adams, Rod Brind'Amour and Justin Williams also scored for the Hurricanes, who improved to an NHL-best 17-4-1 at home.

Lidstrom, Red Wings top Predators 3-1 (AP)
The Detroit Red Wings have left little doubt that they're the team to beat in the Central Division. Sparked by two power-play goals by Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings rallied to beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 Friday night in front of a fired-up crowd that included music superstar Kid Rock. "We know the battle in our division is with Nashville," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Miettinen helps Stars in shooutout win (AP)
The Stars spared goaltender Marty Turco from an embarrassing defeat. Dallas rallied from a three-goal deficit to force overtime, then Antti Miettinen scored in the fourth round of the shootout to send the Stars to a 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Friday night. Turco, who on Thursday signed a four-year, $22.8 million contract extension through the 2009-10 season, gave up three goals on...

Stars sign Turco to four-year extension (AP)
The Dallas Stars have made sure goalie Marty Turco isn't going anywhere. Turco, a two-time All-Star, signed a four-year, $22.8 million contract extension with the Stars on Thursday that will keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. The deal keeps Turco, 30, in Dallas through 2009-10.

Boyes gets game-winner, Bruins top Sens (AP)
The Boston Bruins have learned not to worry too much when losing a lead in the third period. Brad Boyes scored the tiebreaking goal and Bruins beat the short-handed Ottawa Senators for the second time this season, 4-2 Thursday night. "Earlier in the year, our mind-set when losing a third period lead was to hang our heads," Boyes said.

Elias scores two as Devils defeat Habs (AP)
Even Patrik Elias is surprised at how quickly the goals and points have come. Elias had two goals and two assists in his second game back since recovering from hepatitis to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. "I felt good," said Elias, who had an assist in his season debut two nights earlier.

Trading Paint: Welcome back
It's a new year, and NASCAR fans have plenty to say as the offseason rolls on.

Todd Bodine fastest in qualifying for bobsled race (AP)
Going last normally is a curse in bobsledding. Then again, Todd Bodine isn't your normal bobsled driver. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck series star turned his unlucky draw into a celebration Friday. Driving the final sled in qualifying for the Chevrolet Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge, he and brakeman Larry Fowler beat nine other NASCAR drivers with a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.24 seconds at Mount Van...

France's Stephane Peterhansel wins seventh stage of Dakar Rally (AP)
Stephane Peterhansel of France won for the second time in the Dakar Rally, taking the seventh stage Friday in the grueling road race. Fellow Frenchman Luc Alphand was second, 4 minutes, 23 seconds behind, and claimed the overall lead with a time of 22 hours, 32 minutes, 41 seconds. He was followed by Peterhansel, 3 minutes,12 seconds behind.

NASCAR narrows potential Hall of Fame to three cities (AP)
NASCAR has narrowed the possible sites for its first official Hall of Fame to Atlanta, Charlotte or Daytona Beach, Fla., and expects to pick a winning city by the end of March.

Bill Elliott to race in Daytona 500 (SportsTicker)
MOORESVILLE, North Carolina (Ticker) - Bill Elliott was a long-time Ford driver who closed his career with Dodge. Now he will try a Chevrolet in the 2006 Daytona 500.

Elliott to enter Daytona 500 (AP)
Two-time Daytona 500 champion Bill Elliott will enter the race this year in a car fielded by MB2 Motorsports.

NASCAR drivers in a unique challenge -- piloting a bobsled (AP)
When NASCAR ace Ken Schrader was a kid, his father decided to make him a race car driver. Nearly a half-century later, Schrader will be in a bobsled to raise money for the Olympic-bound U.S. men's and women's teams. Schrader's father took an old truck axle, imbedded it vertically in concrete and strung a cable to little Kenny's go-kart.

Auto Racing 2005: Stewart grows up amid youth movement (SportsTicker)
MOORESVILLE, North Carolina (Ticker) - In a season where youth was not only served it was showcased, Tony Stewart topped the auto racing headlines by simply growing up.

NASCAR to restructure regional tours in 2007 (SportsTicker)
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Ticker) - NASCAR announced Wednesday that it will restructure its regional touring series divisions beginning in 2007.

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