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National

  • 49ers play well enough to win Thursday

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Two of the NFL's top defenses dueled it out in a low-scoring game just as everybody expected — and San Francisco's offense did just enough to give the 49ers a narrow lead in the NFC West.

    For the time being, anyway. This is hardly the kind of firm hold on the division they owned last October.

    Alex Smith threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Delanie Walker late in the third quarter and San Francisco held off the Seattle Seahawks 13-6 on Thursday night as the 49ers won their long-awaited division opener.

    "We expect these games in the NFC West to be 60 minutes of physical football," said 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, who returned to the field four days after suffering a concussion against the Giants.

    Frank Gore ran for 131 yards and the 49ers (5-2) hung tough on defense late in a game featuring two teams allowing fewer than 16 points per game.

    Smith went 14 of 23 for 140 yards in a second straight subpar performance.

  • Yankees' troubles may just be starting

    NEW YORK (AP) — George Steinbrenner would have issued a public apology.

    After leading the league in wins this year, the New York Yankees didn't just lose to Detroit in the AL championship series. They got swept in one of the more humiliating moments in the team's history.

    The four-game wipeout made headlines — A-Rod's benching, Derek Jeter's injury, Robinson Cano's slump. But it also revealed serious cracks in the foundation, showing a team full of aging All-Stars at the plate, in the field and on the mound that suddenly seems a long, long way from championship caliber.

    "Obviously, we're all getting older," Andy Pettitte said Thursday night after the season-ending 8-1 loss to the Tigers.

    Jeter broke an ankle near the end. Mariano Rivera busted a knee back in the spring. The Yankees transformed baseball's bruisers into the Bashed Bombers, closer to AARP years than MVP seasons.

  • Brothels rescue cash-strapped Greek soccer team

    LARISSA, Greece (AP) — The world's oldest profession is giving a whole new meaning to love of the game.

    Players on a cash-strapped Greek soccer team now wear pink practice jerseys with the logos "Villa Erotica" and "Soula's House of History," two bordellos it recruited as sponsors after drastic government spending cuts left the country's sports clubs facing ruin.

    Other teams have also turned to unconventional financing. One has a deal with a local funeral home and others have wooed kebab shops, a jam factory and producers of Greece's trademark feta cheese.

    But the amateur Voukefalas club — whose players include pizza delivery guys, students, waiters and a bartender — has raised eyebrows with its flamboyant sponsorship choice.

    "Unfortunately, amateur football has been abandoned by almost everyone," said Yiannis Batziolas, the club's youthful chairman, who runs a travel agency and is the team's backup goalkeeper. "It's a question of survival."

  • Nike severs ties to Armstrong 'with great sadness'

    NEW YORK (AP) — Nike has severed ties with famed cyclist Lance Armstrong, citing insurmountable evidence that he participated in doping and misled the company about those activities for more than a decade.

    The clothing and footwear company said Wednesday that it was terminating Armstrong's contract "with great sadness."

    "Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner," it said in a statement.

    Armstrong said Wednesday, just minutes before the announcement from Nike, that he was stepping down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer-fighting charity so that the organization can steer clear of the whirlwind surrounding its founder.

    A representative for Armstrong could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Nike Inc., based in Beaverton, Ore., said it plans to continue its support for Livestrong. Anheuser-Busch and the sunglasses company Oakley have already pledged ongoing support for the organization.

  • Beyonce to Play Super Bowl
  • Ravens' Lewis, Webb are finished

    OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will miss the remainder of the season with an arm injury, an enormous blow to an already depleted defense that has uncharacteristically struggled this year.
    Lewis tore his right triceps during Sunday’s 31-29 victory over Dallas. The 37-year-old Lewis leads Baltimore in tackles and is the voice of experience in the huddle.
    “Ray in the locker room afterward, we didn’t know (the extent of the injury) but he was worried about it,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “He said some things about his faith. He said some things that I’ll never forget.”
    Over a spectacular 17-year career, Lewis has been invited to 13 Pro Bowls, was named Super Bowl MVP and is a two-time NFL defensive player of the year. He turns 38 in May, so it’s possible that Sunday’s game was his last.
    Baltimore also lost cornerback Lardarius Webb for the year after he tore the ACL in his left knee Sunday when he collided with Dallas’ Dez Bryant.
    Neither Lewis nor Webb spoke after Sunday’s game and both were unavailable for comment on Monday.
    For Harbaugh, it was more about the players than the impact losing them would have on the team.

  • Manning's 3 TD passes spur Broncos' comeback

    SAN DIEGO (AP) — Down 24-0 at halftime, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos reveled after one of the biggest comebacks in NFL regular-season history.

    On the flip side, the San Diego Chargers were saddled with an enormous collapse.

    Manning threw three touchdown passes in the second half and Tony Carter and Chris Harris scored off turnovers by Philip Rivers as the Broncos overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to shock the Chargers 35-24 on Monday night.

    Asked if he'd ever been a part of such a big comeback, Carter replied: "Only in Pop Warner football."

    It took a quarterback of Manning's caliber to pull this one out.

    "It sure was special considering what was on the line," said Manning, a Super Bowl winner and four-time NFL MVP who's in his first season with the Broncos.

    Manning was 13 of 14 for 167 yards in the second half for the Broncos (3-3) who tied the Chargers (3-3) atop the AFC West.

  • The AP top 25 college football poll 10-14-12

    The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press college football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Oct. 13, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and previous ranking:

  • Cards rally late, head to NLCS

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In the end, it made sense that Yadier Molina and David Freese would work those key walks, and that Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma would come through with those tying and go-ahead, two-run hits.
    The names might change. Not the outcomes. This is what the St. Louis Cardinals do.
    Pushed to the brink, they never blink.
    Trailing by three runs before they recorded an out Friday night, then six before the third inning was over, and still behind when down to their last strike over and over again with two outs in the ninth inning, the defending World Series champions fashioned the sort of comeback they’ve made their specialty.
    Waiting until after midnight to finally take the lead, the never-give-up Cardinals erased the biggest deficit ever overcome in a winner-take-all postseason contest and beat the Washington Nationals 9-7 in Game 5 of the NL division series.
    “How did that happen?!” Carlos Beltran asked, speaking to no one in particular in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park.
    Not long before that, a blue bin stuffed with ice and beer cans had been hurriedly wheeled from the Nationals’ side of the stadium to the Cardinals’ room. Yes, the Cardinals turn losses into wins — and then they steal the other guys’ bubbly, too.

  • Orioles hold on in ALDS, force Game 5

    NEW YORK (AP) — Just maybe the Baltimore Orioles' remarkable run into October is not so improbable after all.

    Seventeen wins in extra innings, 31 victories in one-run games. Staving off elimination from the postseason twice already.

    They've done all that, and might not be done yet.

    Bouncing back from a demoralizing defeat, the Orioles beat the New York Yankees 2-1 in, yep, 13 innings on J.J. Hardy's double in Game 4 of the division series Thursday night.

    Now they get a chance to prove one more time that they're unflappable, in a winner-take-all Game 5 Friday.

    "All these extra-inning games, all these close games. Obviously, it's fitting with the types of games we played all year," closer Jim Johnson said.

    On Thursday they played past midnight, winning a test of wills with the high-priced Yankees for a chance at a spot in the AL championship series against Detroit.

    Game 1 winner CC Sabathia was set to pitch the deciding game for the Yankees against Jason Hammel.

    "It's time to go," Sabathia said. "This is a one-game playoff, and this is what we play for. We're here in the Bronx at home, and like I said, I'll be excited and ready to go."