National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Bobby Bowden's grandson killed in crash

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden's grandson was one of two men killed when their car flipped into a small ditch off a central Florida road, officials said Thursday.

Taylor Jeffrey Bowden, 23, and driver Rafael Fernandes De Aguiar Valim, 25, died in the crash, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff's Office. A third man in the crash - 22-year-old Robert Lewis Edwards - was rescued after spending hours in water up to his neck.

"Our whole family had just celebrated Christmas together in Panama City, as well as celebrated T.J.'s graduation from Florida State just three weeks ago," Bobby Bowden said in a statement released by the University of Akron, where son Terry is the football coach. "We will cherish those last memories together with T.J. forever."

T.J. Bowden was the son of Jeff Bowden, a former Florida State assistant coach under his father who is now on brother Terry's staff at Akron.

"I can't express the grief I feel right now," Jeff Bowden said in a statement. "Please keep us in your prayers."

A trash collector reported the submerged car at 7:47 a.m. The Mitsubishi wasn't very visible from the road, but the Florida Refuse truck was high enough to allow the worker to see it.

At first, Winter Haven police, sheriff's deputies, paramedics and the sheriff's office dive team who responded couldn't find survivors. The front end of the care was completely submerged, while part of the back end was sticking up out of the water.

More than three hours later, dive team members in the water heard noises coming from in the car. They were able to communicate with Edwards, who said he was cold and needed help. After several minutes, Edwards was out of the water and he was being treated for hypothermia and other injuries at a hospital.

The dive team then located the bodies of Bowden and De Aguiar Valim.

The details of the crash were being investigated, but alcohol appears to be a factor, the sheriff's office reported.

Deputies have attempted to talk to Edwards about what happened but said he wasn't lucid. It appears that the car was heading north on Country Club Road when it cross the southbound lane, crashed through a fence, went down an embankment and came to a rest upside down in the water.

Bobby Bowden led the Seminoles from 1976 to 2009. The 84-year-old holds the NCAA Division I record for career wins and bowl victories and won two national championships.

In September 2004, Bobby Bowden's grandson, 15-year-old Bowden Madden, and former son-in-law, John Allen Madden, were killed when their car was hit a by a utility truck that was helping to restore power outages caused by Hurricane Frances.

Cowboys' Bryant misses practice, plans to play

IRVING, Texas (AP) Dallas receiver Dez Bryant says he will play in a winner-take-all finale against Philadelphia despite missing practice because of a persistent back problem.

Bryant was downgraded on the practice report Thursday, a day after being a limited participant when the back flared up. He said he aggravated his back in the 24-23 win over Washington.

The Cowboys (8-7) play the Eagles (9-6) on Sunday night in their third straight season-ender with the NFC East title and a playoff berth on the line.

Bryant said he planned to have doctors take a closer look at his back after the season. He had back problems last season as well.

Receiver/kick returner Dwayne Harris (hamstring) was upgraded to a full participant.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Nnamdi Asomugha to retire after 11 seasons

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Former All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will retire after 11 years in the NFL.

The Raiders said Asomugha will announce his retirement officially at a news conference at team headquarters Friday.

Asomugha had his greatest success in the NFL with the Raiders after being drafted in the first round out of California in 2003. He earned three Pro Bowl selections in eight seasons in Oakland and was a first-team All-Pro in 2008 and 2010.

Asomugha struggled after joining Philadelphia as a high-profile free agent in 2011. After two seasons with the Eagles, Asomugha played three games with San Francisco this season before being cut last month.

Packers' Rodgers back, to start Bears game

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Aaron Rodgers has been cleared to return from a left collarbone injury, just in time to start Sunday for the Packers against the Chicago Bears in a game to decide the NFC North title.

With no advance warning and little fanfare, the franchise quarterback received the long-awaited good news at the same time as the rest of his teammates Thursday.

"This is a fun day for me, but I think the focus needs to be on this game and the opportunity we have to win the division," Rodgers said.

Soon enough. But the spotlight for now is squarely on the return of one of the NFL's most irreplaceable players.

Green Bay (7-7-1) is 2-5-1 since Rodgers went down during the first series of a 27-20 loss Nov. 4 to Chicago. The Packers have managed to hang on, with a shot to win a third straight division title with a victory Sunday at Soldier Field.

"I'll start with the announcement that we're preparing for the Chicago Bears with Aaron Rodgers as our starting quarterback," coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Thursday after practice.

Win and Green Bay returns to Lambeau Field the following weekend to host a wild-card team in the first round of the playoffs.

"We're in it. You know we have a chance against our rivals, and what a better way than to go down there and get some redemption and host a home playoff game," Rodgers said.

The last two months have been filled with angst for Packers fans. Discussions about whether Rodgers should risk future injury or return to bolster Green Bay's playoff chances have filled sports talk radio shows and holiday office parties.

Now imagine what it was like for the Packers' brass and team doctor. The organization made a big investment in Rodgers this past offseason, signing him to a five-year contract extension through the 2019 season worth as much as $110 million.

"Every football player that plays in this game Sunday will have risk. I think we all understand that," McCarthy said. "So we've done our due diligence. We've gone through all the evaluations and we feel it is time. Aaron is ready to play."

Finally at 8:05 a.m. Thursday, McCarthy gave the official word at a team meeting. No rousing speeches or rounds of applause.

"The scene? We were sitting in the team room and he told us," Rodgers said matter-of-factly. "That was the scene."

Rodgers is returning just when pass-rushing linebacker Clay Matthews is leaving the lineup again with a right thumb injury. Green Bay also has gone the majority of the season without tight end Jermichael Finley (neck). Projected starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga went down in training camp. Defensive end Johnny Jolly (shoulder/neck) was the latest Packer to get knocked out for the year last week.

Still, the Packers managed to start 5-2 despite the injuries with Rodgers leading the offense.

Things changed drastically after the 2011 NFL MVP got hurt on a sack while scrambling out of the pocket in the Week 9 loss to Chicago at Lambeau Field. The Packers went on a five-game winless skid, shuffling through three more starting quarterbacks.

Green Bay then won two straight with backup Matt Flynn before falling 38-31 last week to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Losses by Chicago and the Detroit Lions set up the winner-take-all finale Sunday with the Bears for the division.

Rodgers' impending return wasn't the only good injury news Thursday in Titletown.

Rookie running back Eddie Lacy was held out of practice with a lingering ankle injury, though McCarthy expects his 1,100-yard rusher to play Sunday. Playmaking receiver Randall Cobb, out since Week 6 with a leg injury, is moving well in practice and appears to be getting closer to returning.

While he won't make the final call, Cobb said "This week in practice I'm going out and preparing to play."

And now with Rodgers back, positive vibes are reverberating through the locker room.

Rodgers has gained added perspective from having to watch from the sideline with a headset. He's been there to help Flynn. He understands that every move he makes in Chicago will be dissected by armchair quarterbacks.

"It's easy to talk about it with you guys and understand the risks," he said. "But when you're out on the field, it's about performing and playing and not worrying about it."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

Manchester United fights back to beat Hull 3-2

HULL, England (AP) - Manchester United was gifted a winner by former defender James Chester as the English Premier League champion came from two goals down to beat Hull 3-2 on Thursday.

Ashley Young's cross was inadvertently headed by Chester into his own net in the 66th minute, allowing United to claim a third straight league win.

"We had to dig deep with our fighting spirit and we've done that," United striker Wayne Rooney said. "It was poor defending for the two goals."

Chester, a product of the United academy who made only one first team appearance, scored the opening goal with a fourth-minute volley. United conceded again in the 13th when David Meyler's shot deflected in off United defender Jonny Evans.

But Rooney's free kick was headed in by Chris Smalling in the 19th, and the striker volleyed in the equalizer seven minutes later.

After Chester's own-goal, United was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time. Antonio Valencia received a second booking for time wasting after kicking the ball away.

"We've had some poor results at the start of the season and we have shown some real quality in the last few weeks," Rooney said. "We are having a go."

United, which was eight points behind league leader Arsenal, arrived late at KC Stadium due to traffic problems.

United had to phone in the team sheet, which included Darren Fletcher in the starting lineup for the first time since last December following treatment for a bowel disorder.

It was Hull which made the brighter start, and scored with the first chance of the game.

Tom Huddlestone delivered a corner into the box where Alex Bruce got above Patrice Evra to head toward the far post.

United striker Danny Welbeck was slow to come off the line but Chester was one step ahead, advancing to volley into the roof of the net.

Meyler then drove Hull into the penalty area and stayed up to collect Yannick Sagbo's cutback across the box. Meyler's first connection was wayward but Evans allowed him a second chance with a sloppy clearance that came back to the Irishman.

The resulting shot would not have troubled goalkeeper David de Gea, but Evans again intervened, wrong-footing the Spaniard and turning the ball into his own net.

An apparent groin injury to defender Rafael da Silva gave Moyes a chance to change things, and the manager made a determined move in sending on winger Adnan Januzaj.

He had an almost immediate impact, winning a 19th-minute free kick from which United scored.

Rooney provided the hanging cross from the right and Smalling produced a clinical header that went inside the far post.

As United regained confidence, Rooney netted the goal of the game. He controlled Evans' long ball effortlessly with his back to goal before flicking an overhead pass to Welbeck.

When it came back to Rooney, via a combination of Welbeck and Curtis Davies, the England striker took another deft touch before sending in a fierce 30-yard volley.

Bruce had to reshuffle at the interval, Steve Harper on for McGregor and Robert Koren replacing Meyler. But the hosts once more came out brightly, with Davies glancing a header and Huddlestone denied by a ricochet off Evra.

Man City beats Liverpool as Arsenal goes top of Premier League

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Arsenal is on top of the Premier League heading into the second half of the season as Arsene Wenger looks to win the trophy for the first time in a decade.

Theo Walcott's double ensured Liverpool's stay atop the standings lasted less than a week as Arsenal came from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham and its title rival lost 2-1 at Manchester City on Thursday.

As Liverpool dropped to fourth, City climbed a place to second to sit a point behind Arsenal after the traditional Boxing Day program that saw every team in action.

Chelsea is wedged inbetween City and Liverpool in third after Eden Hazard's swerving shot secured a 1-0 victory over Swansea.

With Manchester United recovering to win 3-2 at Hull, it was left to bottom-place Sunderland to conjure the only Boxing Day shock by beating highflying Everton.

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard was sent off for bringing down Ki Sung-Yeung, who then scored from the penalty spot to give Sunderland a 1-0 victory against the fifth-place team.

Newcastle in closing in on the top four after routing Stoke 5-1 to remain ahead of United in sixth place.

Tottenham dropped to eighth after Tim Sherwood's first match in full charge ended in a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion.

Cardiff could be the next club searching for a new manager as Malky Mackay's side was beaten 3-0 by Southampton.

A change of manager has sparked a revival at Crystal Palace, with Tony Pulis producing a third success of the month after Dwight Gayle clinched a 1-0 win at Aston Villa in stoppage time.

Rene Meulensteen is celebrating his second win as Fulham manager after his struggling team came from behind to overcome Norwich 2-1.

At Upton Park, Arsenal fell behind when goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny spilled Kevin Nolan's shot and Carlton Cole pounced to score a minute into the second half.

West Ham goalkeeper Adrian was also culpable for Arsenal's equalizer, with Walcott cutting in from the right and shooting between his legs in the 68th.

Walcott headed Arsenal in front three minutes later, and Lukas Podolski rounded off the win that sent West Ham into the relegation zone.

City also had to come from behind to make it nine wins out of nine at home.

Phillippe Coutinho put Liverpool ahead in the 24th minute after Raheem Sterling rounded City goalkeeper Joe Hart to set him up.

Vincent Kompany headed City level seven minutes later after meeting David Silva's corner, and Alvaro Negredo's high shot was fumbled into the net by Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet on the stroke of halftime.

At Hull, United conceded twice in 13 minutes after traffic delayed the team's journey.

Former United youth team player Alex Bruce rose above Patrice Evra and headed a corner on for James Chester who volleyed in his first league goal. Chester made just one appearance for United - in 2009 - and, after several spells away from Old Trafford on loan, the defender moved to Hull in 2011.

United's defense was breached again when David Meyler's shot deflected off Jonny Evans past goalkeeper David de Gea.

United's comeback began with Chris Smalling heading in Wayne Rooney's free kick, and by the 26th minute, the visitors were level. Rooney played a one-two with Danny Welbeck before volleying in his 150th league goal for United from the edge of the area.

United was gifted the winner in the 66th when Young's cross was inadvertently headed into his own net by Chester.

Newcastle also fell behind at home to Stoke but the comeback began after the visitors had two players sent off in the last five minutes of the first half.

Glenn Whelan earned a second yellow card, and Marc Wilson was given a straight red card three minutes later for hauling Remy down inside the box.

Loic Remy's penalty was saved by Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen but he equalized seconds later with a deflected effort.

After the break, Yoan Gouffran quickly put Newcastle in front before Remy scored his second, while Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse also netted.

On a day of comebacks, Scott Parker scored in the 87th to give Fulham a much-needed win at Norwich after Pajtim Kasami canceled out Gary Hooper's opener for hosts.

At Cardiff, all the goals came in the first half, with Jay Rodriguez netting twice and Rickie Lambert completing a comfortable win for Southampton.

Gamecocks' Clowney pulled over again for speeding

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has been pulled over again for going at least 25 mph over the speed limit.

Clowney was stopped around 10:30 a.m. Thursday going 84 mph in a 55 mph zone on Interstate 26 near Interstate 126, about 5 miles from the Gamecocks' campus, Columbia Police said..

The traffic stop happened about an hour before the Gamecocks flew to Florida for the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl against Wisconsin. The game will be the junior's last for the Gamecocks as he leaves school early for the NFL draft.

It's Clowney's second ticket in three weeks. On Dec. 7, state troopers say Clowney was going 110 mph in a 70 mph zone.

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier was asked about Clowney's latest ticket after the team landed in Orlando, and the coach did not sound too concerned.

"He needs to go to driving school doesn't he? Somebody told me he got another speeding ticket today," Spurrier said. "At least he'll have enough money to pay for it a week or so from now. He needs to go to driving school. Hopefully they'll send him there after the bowl game."

Drivers pleading guilty for going at least 25 mph over the speed limit in South Carolina get six points. State law allows a license to be suspended after 12 points.

LeBron James wins AP Male Athlete of the Year

MIAMI (AP) The only thing that keeps LeBron James up worrying at night is basketball, which simultaneously makes perfect sense and no sense.

On one hand, he's the game's best player.

On the other, he's rarely impressed with himself.

Even after a year like 2013 - when a spectacular wedding, a second NBA championship and a fourth MVP award were among the many highlights enjoyed by the Miami Heat star - he still is, as he puts it, striving for greatness. Or, technically, more greatness, since his enormous list of accomplishments just keeps growing.

James was announced Thursday as The Associated Press' 2013 Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the third basketball player to capture the award that has been annually awarded since 1931. James received 31 of 96 votes cast in a poll of news organizations, beating Peyton Manning (20) and Jimmie Johnson (7).

"I'm chasing something and it's bigger than me as a basketball player," James told the AP. "I believe my calling is much higher than being a basketball player. I can inspire people. Youth is huge to me. If I can get kids to look at me as a role model, as a leader, a superhero ... those things mean so much, and that's what I think I was built for. I was put here for this lovely game of basketball, but I don't think this is the biggest role that I'm going to have."

Past winners include Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana, Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps. Serena Williams was the AP Female Athlete of the Year, announced Wednesday.

James joins Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as NBA players to win the award.

"I don't think I've changed much this year," James said. "I've just improved and continued to improve on being more than just as a basketball player. I've matured as a leader, as a father, as a husband, as a friend."

So far in 2013, with a maximum of three games left to play, James has appeared in 98. The Heat have won 78 of them.

None of those was bigger than the four Miami got in the NBA Finals against San Antonio. In Game 7, James was at his best, scoring 37 points, including the jump shot with 27.9 seconds left that essentially was the clincher.

"He always rises to the occasion when it matters the most," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Business-wise, James is booming. Some estimate his annual income around $60 million, less than one-third of that being made on the court. His wife has opened a juice bar in Miami, and David Beckham wants James to be part of the Major League Soccer team he plans on bringing to South Florida in the next couple years.

Countless people want to align with James. Few make him listen. Beckham did.

"You want to be a part of it, but it has to feel real to you," James said. "You don't want to do something that doesn't feel much to you, that you're just doing for the money. We all have money. For me, my time is more than money at this point in my life."

James has another "decision" to make in 2014. He can become a free agent again this summer, though still smarting from the circus atmosphere that followed him during his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers four years ago, James is staying largely silent on what might happen.

He insists he has no idea.

"I'm so zoned in on what my task is here this year that it's hard to think about anything else," James said. "A guy the other day asked me what I'm going to do for New Year's, and I haven't even thought about that."

When asked if there's anything he doesn't like about Miami, James offered few complaints, other than the often-clogged street - Biscayne Boulevard, or U.S. 1 - that leads to the arena the Heat call home.

"What is there not to like about Miami?" James said. "It is a home. My family is very happy; I'm very comfortable. But U.S. 1? I wish that was a highway."

Bear in mind, he's not always unhappy when that street is gridlocked.

The last two years, he's been largely responsible for hundreds of thousands of people lining that road for Heat championship parades.

And if he gets his way, they'll be back next June.

Mich. State LB Bullough suspended for Rose Bowl

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan State has suspended senior linebacker Max Bullough for violating team rules, making him ineligible to play in the Rose Bowl.

In a news release sent early Thursday, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said Bullough had been suspended for the rest of the season. He did not say what rules the two-time team captain violated.

"It is extremely disappointing for all parties involved," Dantonio said.

The No. 4 Spartans will play No. 5 Stanford in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif. It is Michigan State's seventh straight bowl game and first appearance in the Rose Bowl in 26 seasons.

Bullough, from Traverse City, had 76 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss this season, earning him third-team All-America honors and first-team All-Big Ten honors. He has 299 career tackles and made 40 consecutive starts.

Playing for Michigan State has been a family affair. Max Bullough's grandfather, Hank Bullough, played for Michigan State in the early 1950s, and his father Shane followed in the mid-1980s. Two of Max Bullough's uncles were Spartans and his younger brother Riley is a redshirt freshman.

"Max will forever remain a Spartan and valued member in this team's achievements," Dantonio said in the statement.

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