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Broncos, Steelers Ready for AFC Matchup (AP)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) celebrates after the Steelers beat the Indianapolis Colts 21-18 in their NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)AP - Thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos, the AFC has a championship game nobody expected to see.


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Steelers Take to Road to Reverse History (AP)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) celebrates after the Steelers beat the Indianapolis Colts 21-18 in their NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)AP - The Pittsburgh Steelers are accomplishing as an underdog what they couldn't do so many times as a favorite under coach Bill Cowher, winning on the road in January after countless postseason failures at home.


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Peyton Manning Struggles in Playoffs Again (AP)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning walks off the field after the Colts' 21-18 NFL divisional football playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)AP - All of Peyton Manning's studying and experience failed to prepare him for another early playoff exit.


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This Time, Bears Far From Dominant (AP)
Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher (55) sits on the bench with teammate Lance Briggs following their NFC divisional playoff football game against the Carolina Panthers in Chicago, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006.  The Panthers' defeated the Bears 29-21 and will play the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC conference championship. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)AP - Over and over, Brian Urlacher used the same word: frustrating. The NFL defensive player of the year was mystified about why — for the first time all season — the Chicago Bears were defenseless.


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Venus Williams Ousted in First Round (AP)
Coach Mark Petchy, left, looks on as British tennis player Andy Murray  works out during a practice session Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006, at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.  First round action at the Australian Open begins Monday, Jan. 16, 2006.  (AP Photo/Steve Holland)AP - Wimbledon champion Venus Williams was knocked out of the Australian Open in the first round Monday, losing 2-6, 6-0, 9-7 to Tszvetana Pironkova.


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Steelers Embrace Road Run to AFC Title Game (AP)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis (36) plows for a 7-yard pickup against the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter of their NFL divisional payoff game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006, in Indianapolis.  (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)AP - Back when they were 7-5, the Pittsburgh Steelers knew one more loss would end their chances of playing in the Super Bowl. Six weeks and six victories later, they still haven't lost.


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Franchise record lifts Raps over Knicks (Reuters)
Toronto Raptors forward Jalen Rose (L) is fouled by New York Knickerbockers guard Quentin Richardson (R) during the first half of their NBA game in Toronto January 15, 2006. Toronto defeated New York 129-103. REUTERS/J.P. MoczulskiReuters - Jalen Rose came off the bench to score a season-high 31 points and the Toronto Raptors set a franchise record for points in a 129-103 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday.


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Ponson Has New Look for Fresh Start (AP)
AP - Sidney Ponson has a new look to go with his fresh start: a full head of hair. The right-hander, who signed a free-agent deal with the St. Louis Cardinals last month, showed up at the team's Winter Warmup on Sunday with dark brown, curly locks. In the past he shaved his head.

UANL Tigres Win InterLiga Tournament (AP)
Team Tigres celebrates as they hold up the interliga trophy after defeating Monterrey in the finals at Interliga 2006 soccer at the Home Depot  Center, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006, in Carson, Calif. Tigres won 2-1 and will receive a berth to the Copa Libertadores, the annual South American club championship. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)AP - Jamie Lozano scored in overtime to give UANL Tigres a 2-1 victory over crosstown rival Monterrey and the championship of the InterLiga tournament in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday night.


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Walker Scores Twice to Lead Predators (AP)
Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Ryan Malone (12) battles  Nashville Predators defenseman Mark Eaton (4) for a shot on goalie Tomas Vokoun (29) of the Czech Republic during the third period of NHL hockey action in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006.  The Predators won 5-4.(AP Photo/John Russell)AP - Scott Walker scored his first two goals since returning from surgery that kept him out of 33 games, and the Nashville Predators held off the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 Sunday night.


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Carolina's talent show
The Panthers have the skills and the momentum to win in Seattle and reach the Super Bowl.

Steelers escape Indy with wild 21-18 win (AP)
The controversial calls during the divisional-round playoff game between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh: ^WHAT'S THE CATCH?: On first-and-10 from the Indianapolis 44 with 5:33 left, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw to tight end Bryan Fletcher near midfield. Troy Polamalu stepped in front, caught the ball, tumbled with it in his hands and lost it when got up to run.

Panthers strike quick, beat Bears 29-21 (AP)
Steve Smith and the Carolina Panthers road show left Chicago's vaunted defense face down and out of the playoffs. Now it's off to Seattle for the NFC championship, where the Panthers will have to rely on their playmaker more than ever. Smith had 12 catches for a career-high 218 yards and two long touchdowns, including a 58-yard scoring reception on the second play from scrimmage, to lead Carolina...

Broncos new Super Bowl favorites (AP)
Meet the new favorites to win the Super Bowl: the Denver Broncos. After putting in an impressive performance to knock out New England, the Broncos sat home Sunday and watched Pittsburgh upset Indianapolis, the previous odds-on favorite to win it all. Now, the Broncos get a home game next Sunday against the Steelers in the AFC title game, where they've been established as a 4-point pick.

Panthers WR Smith too much for Bears (AP)
Steve Smith was everywhere: cutting across the middle to catch a key pass, taking quick screens and using his speed, outjumping Charles Tillman to set up a field goal and twice getting behind a fallen defender for touchdowns. Smith showed why he was the NFL's top receiver this season. He also showed the way Sunday as the Carolina Panthers beat the Chicago Bears 29-21 in the NFC divisional round.

Panthers RB Foster breaks ankle (AP)
Carolina running back DeShaun Foster broke his right ankle in the third quarter Sunday against the Chicago Bears, ending his season before the Panthers go to Seattle next week to play for the NFC championship. "It's disappointing. DeShaun was doing so well. But he'll be back," Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said.

With Alexander down, Hasselbeck steps up (AP)
A knock to Shaun Alexander ended any lingering knocks against Matt Hasselbeck. When the NFL MVP went out with a concussion in a playoff win over Washington, Hasselbeck proved he could carry the load. Though coach Mike Holmgren said Alexander was "wobbly" and "got dinged around pretty good," he is optimistic the league rushing champion will be ready to play in the NFC title game next Sunday against...

Bears defense far from dominant in loss (AP)
Over and over, Brian Urlacher used the same word: frustrating. The NFL defensive player of the year was mystified about why -- for the first time all season -- the Chicago Bears were defenseless. "We didn't have any three-and-outs, a lot of takeaways, a lot of sacks," Urlacher said. "That's what we thrive on." Instead, the Carolina Panthers thrived, reeling off 434 yards in a 29-21 victory over the...

Injuries, then mistakes plague Patriots (AP)
There were no crutches in sight, only ex-champs in a somber locker room. The Patriots were just about the healthiest they'd been the whole season. In the locker room, they didn't blame their mistake-filled flop on questionable calls by officials. There was befuddlement, though, at how a disciplined group that thrived under the pressure of three Super Bowls victories could come unglued with a chance...

Bad playoff game again for Peyton, Colts (AP)
All of Peyton Manning's studying and experience failed to prepare him for another early playoff exit. But Sunday's 21-18 setback in the divisional round clearly seemed more distressing to the two-time MVP. He stared silently into his locker, contemplating what went so wrong in a season where so much had gone so perfectly.

The NBA's big shots
LOS ANGELES – Who's better, Kobe or LeBron? It depends on how much time's left in the game.

Bibby's career-high 42 gives Kings win (AP)
Mike Bibby limped to the free-throw line in the final second, knowing the game probably rested on his weary shoulders. But he also knew his career high was at stake -- and with two final free throws, Bibby got the win and the record. Bibby finished his 42-point performance with 0.4 seconds left, and the Sacramento Kings held off the Orlando Magic 104-100 Sunday night in a meeting of seriously...

Raptors end Knicks' six-game win streak (AP)
Jalen Rose and the Toronto Raptors ended New York's winning streak with a record game. Rose had a season-high 31 points and the Raptors reached a franchise-high in points, ending New York's six-game winning streak with a 129-103 rout Sunday. Morris Peterson added a season-high 28 and Chris Bosh had 23 for the Raptors, who surpassed the previous record of 128 points -- done twice.

Blazers shut down LeBron, Cavs 89-87 (AP)
After Ruben Patterson made sure LeBron James didn't beat the Portland Trail Blazers, he took a bit of good-natured ribbing from teammate Zach Randolph. Randolph serenaded Patterson in the locker room: "If Ruben can't do it, nobody can!" Patterson and Randolph each had 16 points and seven rebounds, and the Trail Blazers edged the depleted Cleveland Cavaliers 89-87 Sunday night.

Cavs' Gooden misses game with injury (AP)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Drew Gooden sat out Sunday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers due to a thigh injury. Gooden was on the inactive list for the game with a right leg adductor strain, and the team said he was day-to-day. Gooden, averaging 11.4 points and 8.7 rebounds, hurt his leg in the third quarter of the Cavaliers' 115-106 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

Kobe helps Lakers hold off Warriors (AP)
Nothing could stop Kobe Bryant from acting like an airplane. Bryant scored 10 of his 38 points the final 4 1/2 minutes, and Smush Parker added career highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers' 110-104 victory over slumping Golden State on Saturday night. Jason Richardson scored a season-high 37 points and Baron Davis got his fifth career triple-double for the Warriors, but Parker...

Ginobili-to-Duncan alley-oop lifts Spurs (AP)
Manu Ginobili made the most of his return to the San Antonio Spurs' starting lineup. Not only did he lead the Spurs with 20 points, he created the decisive basket by hitting Tim Duncan with an inbound alley-oop pass for a layup with 7.2 seconds left in San Antonio's 80-79 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.

LeBron commits to USA basketball (AP)
LeBron James has committed to playing for the U.S. team at this year's world championships and the 2008 Olympics. "It's officially official in his case and I know he's excited about it," said Jerry Colangelo, managing director of USA Basketball. "He's obviously one of the core guys you want because of his talent, his age, his maturity at a very young age." Colangelo met with James before the...

Mavericks rout Nets 110-77 (AP)
The Dallas Mavericks jumped on the weary New Jersey Nets from the opening tip, and didn't let up. Josh Howard scored 29 points and Keith Van Horn added 23 -- going 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half -- in the Mavericks' 110-77 rout of the Nets on Saturday night. New Jersey had 10 turnovers in the opening quarter, leading to 16 Dallas points as the Mavericks rolled to a 32-19 advantage.

Karl a winner in return to Milwaukee (AP)
George Karl talked about revenge, then Carmelo Anthony helped his coach get it. Anthony scored 38 points, leading the Denver Nuggets over the Bucks 100-93 Saturday night in Karl's second game back in Milwaukee. Karl was hired in Denver last season after coaching the Bucks from 1998-2003. "The pep talk was good," Karl said.

Power rankings
The Power Rankings go west as Detroit leapfrogs two Eastern Conference teams to take the top spot.

Staal's hat trick helps 'Canes win again (AP)
Eric Staal has defied the odds during a lifetime of playing hockey. At 21 years old, he finally lost his first tooth -- or at least part of it. "I've got a lot chin scars, but I've never lost a tooth," he said. "Maybe I'll smarten up and wear a mouth guard from now on." The dynamic scorer had three goals, including the go-ahead one off a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Erik Cole, and the...

Rally stalls, Pens lose sixth straight (AP)
Blame fatigue or sloppiness. The Nashville Predators finished up their 12th game in 20 days happy to escape with a victory over the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins. Scott Walker scored his first two goals since returning from surgery that kept him out of 33 games, and the Predators held off Pittsburgh 5-4 Sunday night after blowing most of a four-goal lead.

Surging Devils beat Blackhawks in SO 3-2 (AP)
New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur picked an appropriate place to record a milestone win. Brodeur earned his 423rd win in the Devils' 3-2 win over Chicago on Sunday night, tying him for fifth place on the NHL's all-time list with Blackhawks legend Tony Esposito. Brodeur stopped 29 shots through overtime, then three of four Blackhawks in the shootout, to lead New Jersey to its season-high sixth...

Julien fired, Carbonneau in next season (AP)
General manager Bob Gainey decided he was the best person to straighten out the slumping Montreal Canadiens. Gainey fired coach Claude Julien on Saturday and made himself interim coach. He also brought in former team captain Guy Carbonneau as an associate coach who will take over as head coach at the end of the season.

Two Sabres record hat tricks in 10-1 win (AP)
Excuse rookie forward Jason Pominville for not remembering the last time the Buffalo Sabres scored 10 goals. It hasn't happened in almost 13 years, when Pominville was a 10-year-old growing up in Quebec. He won't forget this one. Pominville, with a natural hat trick, and Jochen Hecht scored three goals apiece in Buffalo's 10-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

Forsberg's first game vs. Avs an OT loss (AP)
Peter Forsberg was gracious enough to pick up the bill when he dined with a group of his former Colorado teammates. The Avalanche returned the gesture by sticking Philadelphia with a loss. Alex Tanguay scored with 45.8 seconds left in overtime, helping Colorado spoil Forsberg's first game against his former team in the Avalanche's 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

Islanders lackluster in latest loss (AP)
Brad Shaw is already fed up with the New York Islanders, just two games into his job as their interim coach. The problems that got coach Steve Stirling fired and convinced longtime general manager Mike Milbury that the time was right to step aside returned in full force Saturday night during an 8-1 home loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Gretzky wins in Toronto as Coyotes rally (AP)
Curtis Joseph overcame a shaky start to beat his former team. Paul Mara, Geoff Sanderson, Ladislav Nagy and Fredrik Sjostrom scored goals to help the Phoenix Coyotes overcome a three-goal, first-period deficit in a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Wayne Gretzky coached his first game in Toronto, and Joseph, playing his first in Toronto since leaving in 2002, made 25...

Shanahan scores twice, Wings top Rangers (AP)
Brendan Shanahan broke out of his scoring slump and sent the Rangers away pointless for the first time in seven games. Shanahan's second goal of the game snapped a third-period tie and the Detroit Red Wings beat New York 4-3 on Saturday. Robert Lang and Johan Franzen also scored for the Red Wings. Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander and Jed Ortmeyer had the goals for the Rangers, who had earned at least...

Awesome return
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Two-time Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott is back at Daytona and gunning for another 500 win.

France's Luc Alphand wins Dakar Rally, final stage not timed (AP)
French driver Luc Alphand won the Dakar Rally on Sunday after finishing the final non-timed leg of the race in Senegal. Alphand led heading into the final stage, which race organizers said would not be timed to honor two boys killed during the race. Alphand, a former ski champion, was clocked at 53 hours, 47 minutes, 32 seconds at the end of Saturday's penultimate stage.

Stewart hospitalized after flipping Midget car (SportsTicker)
TULSA, Oklahoma (Ticker) - Reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart was hospitalized after flipping his car Friday night in qualifying for the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Raceway.

NASCAR champ Stewart injures arm after flipping midget car (AP)
Reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart injured his right arm after he flipped his car during a qualifying race for the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

Dakar Rally support truck kills 12-year-old boy (AP)
For the second day in a row, a boy died after being hit by a vehicle involved in the Dakar Rally. A support truck hit and killed a 12-year-old boy Saturday, said organizers of the cross-continental road race -- which ends Sunday. The truck struck the boy during the 14th stage on a road reserved for support vehicles.

NASCAR asks judge to dismiss suit by Kentucky Speedway (AP)
COVINGTON, Ky. – NASCAR asked a federal judge Thursday to throw out Kentucky Speedway's $400 million...

Stewart sticking with the Colts (AP)
INDIANAPOLIS – In a Super Bowl showdown, Tony Stewart's NFL allegiance would lie with the Indianapolis...

Darlington zooms ahead with construction, sales (AP)
DARLINGTON, S.C. – For the first time in a long while, Darlington Raceway president Chris Browning can...

Gordon looking strong in Daytona testing (AP)
Coming off a disappointing season, four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon is aiming to build some momentum in a hurry for 2006.

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