National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Blues beat Blackhawks 4-3 in 3 OTs

ST. LOUIS (AP) In the first period, Ryan Miller looked like the goalie who limped home 0-5. For the final 80 minutes, 26 seconds, the St. Louis Blues saw the cool, confident backstop they acquired to make the deep playoff run they've long sought.

Miller allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period, then shut the door on the Chicago Blackhawks to pave the way for Alexander Steen's deciding goal in an epic 4-3, triple-overtime Game 1 victory on Thursday night.

"It's not all about one period," Miller said. "I tried not to change my approach and it's nice to come out on the right side."

Steen scored 26 seconds into the third overtime to cap the longest playoff game in franchise history, beating Corey Crawford off a pair of short passes from Steve Ott and David Backes to end the marathon.

"I didn't know how open he was, obviously," Ott said. "He obviously buried it and the game's over. We stuck with it and we found a way to win it."

The Blues got most of their injured front-line players back for Game 1, then put a six-game losing streak to end the regular season behind them.

"Win, lose or draw, what happened in the third period was we finally saw our team," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said.

The next challenge is finding a way to recover on short rest, with Game 2 on Saturday afternoon. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo logged 44 minutes, 8 seconds of ice time and two Blackhawks, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, played more than 40 minutes.

Miller made 39 saves for the Blues and Crawford had 48 for Chicago.

"I think the big thing for us is we have to realize it's only one game and we've got a quick turnaround coming back," Chicago's Patrick Kane said. "That's the best part about it, we get right back at it."

Kane scored on a breakaway to put Chicago up 3-2 late in the first period. Jaden Schwartz stole the puck to set up his tying goal with 1:45 to go in regulation.

The Blues' previous longest overtime game was a 4-3 loss at Detroit in 1984 that extended 37 minutes, 7 seconds. The home record for a playoff overtime game was 33:49 of extra time in a 5-4 win over Chicago on April 20, 1989.

St. Louis had to kill off delay-of-game penalties for shooting the puck into the stands in the first two overtimes and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville argued vehemently for a second delay of game that would have given Chicago a 5-on-3 advantage in the first OT. The Blackhawks killed off a holding penalty in the second overtime.

Jonathan Toews, like Kane back from a lengthy injury absence, had two assists for Chicago.

Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Adam Cracknell all scored their first playoff goal for the Blues.

The Blackhawks kept the Blues pinned in their own zone for 2:10 during the first overtime, and Maxim Lapierre made the save of the session by getting in front of a drive by Kris Versteeg with less than two minutes remaining.

"Guys like me take pride in blocking shots and doing little details," Lapierre said.

Tarasenko was among the best players coming off a 15-game absence because of a broken thumb, tying for the team lead with seven shots.

Cracknell tapped in a rebound early in the first to end a scoring drought of 148 minutes, 39 seconds for a team that got shut out the last two games of the regular season.

Kane scored his 30th career playoff goal after catching the defense napping at the end of a St. Louis power play, beating Miller off a long lead pass from Toews for a 3-2 lead at 18:24 of the first.

Miller allowed three goals on just seven shots in the first with defensemen Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook also scoring for Chicago.

"They had a couple of nice shots in the first, but I had to come out and battle," Miller said. "Luckily I got ahold of a few of them."

St. Louis' top line of David Backes, Steen and Ott was a combined minus-5 in the first. Ott was a bit of surprise, considering he was minus-7 during the Blues' six-game losing streak to end the regular season, but was solid the rest of the way.

"He played the way we thought he could play," Hitchcock said. "With that type of energy, that type of focus, he's a good player."

Crawford faced just three shots in the second, but needed big saves to thwart Tarasenko and Ott. He made glove saves on drives by Steen and Tarasenko not long before Schwartz got the equalizer.

NOTES: Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has the longest consecutive game streak in major sports at 717 games, left in the first overtime and did not return. Hitchcock said Bouwmeester was dehydrated but was fine after the game. ... Oduya and Seabrook combined for 10 goals in the regular season. Oduya's goal was first credited to Versteeg on a deflection. ... The Blues scratched a pair of top forwards, T.J. Oshie (head) and Patrik Burglund (shoulder). ... Kane had two goals and four assists against St. Louis in the regular season and Toews had a goal and three assists.

Stastny leads Avs to 5-4 OT win over Wild

DENVER (AP) Paul Stastny sweated out the trade deadline, wondering if his big, expiring contract and Colorado's desire to beef up its blue line might lead to his departure from Denver.

Instead, he stuck around to help the Avalanche end a four-year playoff drought.

That decision by executive vice president Joe Sakic to keep him in the Mile High City paid huge dividends Thursday night when Stastny sparked Colorado's 5-4 win in overtime against the Minnesota Wild in their Western Conference playoff series opener.

"He's obviously a really good player," said Wild defenseman and fellow Olympian Ryan Suter. "He's a really good player. He's good in the faceoff circle, good on the power play. He's just the total package, he plays hard on both ends of the ice."

Stastny tied it with 13.4 seconds left in regulation, then beat Ilya Bryzgalov with another close-in wrist shot 7:27 into overtime, capping Colorado's comeback from a two-goal deficit after two periods.

Those were the only two shots on goal that Stastny, who made $6.6 million this season, took all night.

Stastny is the first player in Stanley Cup Playoff history to score the game-tying goal in the last 15 seconds of regulation and then score the winning goal in OT, the Avs said based on information from the Elias Sports Bureau.

But Stastny, who also had an assist, credited his coach's bold moves and teammate Erik Johnson's hustle after his first career three-point playoff performance.

The frenetic finish included a daring roll of the dice by Patrick Roy is his playoff coaching debut: pulling goaltender Semyon Varlamov with 3:01 remaining for an extra skater.

"It's the team we've got," Stastny said. "We're confident in ourselves. It starts with our coach. Three minutes left and he pulls the goalie, he has the confidence in us scoring and always playing to win. He never sits back. If he thinks it's the best chance, then we believe in it, too."

Pulling Varlamov, who led the NHL with a franchise record 41 wins, one more than Roy had when Colorado won its last Stanley Cup in 2000-01, nearly backfired when Erik Haula slapped a shot across the ice that headed for the empty net as the Pepsi Center crowd grew silent.

Johnson caught up to the skittering puck and slapped it away just before it crossed the goal line with 1:32 left in regulation.

"It's 3 inches from losing the game," Stastny said. "If that doesn't happen, that hustle out of E.J., we're not here in this moment."

Haula was still shaking his head after the game.

"Obviously, that's the game if it goes in and it didn't," Haula said. "And then they tie it up at 13 seconds. Like I said, that's playoff hockey and now we've just got to bounce back."

Game 2 is Saturday night.

Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn also added goals for Colorado, the Central Division champs. Haula, Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Kyle Brodziak scored for the Wild, who took a 4-2 lead after a three-goal second period.

The Wild spent the final period trying to play a prevent defense, not allowing the Avalanche to take advantage of their quickness. O'Reilly stole the puck from Brodziak and slid it over to McGinn, who batted it past Bryzgalov to make it a one-goal game at 12:47.

Then Stastny tied it and he won it.

"What a comeback," Johnson said. "That's the kind of stuff you dream about when you're a kid, winning playoff games like that."

The Wild knew they let this one slip away.

"They obviously had some luck with them and then in OT we hit a pipe and I think it was pretty close to going into the empty net, as well," Haula said. "So, give credit to them. They never quit. They played a full game and I think they just got the bounces in the end."

Johnson won't dispute that notion.

"I think any time you come back like that in a playoff game, luck's on your side a little bit," he said. "I thought we played a good game toward the end. We'll take it, but we realize we have a lot more to give and they outplayed us."

NOTES: Parise had two assists. ... The Avs were without F John Mitchell (head) and D Cory Sarich (back). They were already missing leading scorer Matt Duchene (knee). ... Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon had three assists.

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Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Sharks beat Kings 6-3 in Game 1

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Tomas Hertl and Raffi Torres both scored in their first game together as teammates and the San Jose Sharks jumped on top of Jonathan Quick and the rival Los Angeles Kings with a 6-3 victory in their playoff opener Thursday night.

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks, who managed just 10 goals against Quick in losing a seven-game series to Los Angeles in the second round last year. Antti Niemi made 31 saves.

Quick allowed three goals in the first period for the first time in his playoff career, including two in the final minute as the Kings were completely outclassed.

Game 2 is Sunday in San Jose.

Quick was replaced by Martin Jones after allowing five goals on 28 shots in two periods and only watched as the Kings showed life in the third period with goals from Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov and Trevor Lewis.

But Brent Burns sealed it with an empty-net goal as the home team won for the 17th time in the past 18 meetings between these teams.

The Sharks were the healthiest they have been all season with Torres back after missing all but five games in the regular season and Hertl playing for just the third time since Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown injured him with an illegal knee-on-knee hit on Dec. 19 in a play that still riles the Sharks.

They got payback in the best way possible with a dominating victory that showed off their much-improved depth when they are healthy. They got goals from all four lines and their defense to beat the Kings by more than one in their most lopsided win over the Kings since Nov. 7, 2011.

The game had even added meaning for Hertl and Torres. Hertl talked before the series of his dislike for the Kings and said this series would be personal because of the injury.

Torres was suspended for the final six games of last year's series for a hit to the head of Jarret Stoll in a punishment the Sharks and Torres felt was unjust.

The Sharks had nothing to complain about after this game as they jumped out to a 5-0 lead and held on for the victory.

The third playoff series in four years between these heated California rivals got off to an odd start as there was a power outage at SAP Center just minutes before the start of pregame warmups. The lights came back on about five minutes later and the players warmed up without the usual blaring music.

But by the time the puck dropped, the towel-waving crowd was at its usual fever pitch chanting "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!" right from the start.

The cheers only got louder during a dominant first period that featured a combined 55 hits from the two teams, three goals from the Sharks and a scrum after Mike Brown pushed Voynov into Quick after the whistle.

Thornton's deflection of Joe Pavelski's shot from the slot on a chance created by Burns' hustle to negate an icing gave San Jose the early lead.

San Jose broke things open with two goals in the final minute off broken plays. James Sheppard miss-hit a one-timer that slid right to Hertl, who tapped it in to make it 2-0 with 51.7 seconds to play.

Marleau then made it 3-0 with 3.2 seconds to play to cap a 2-on-1 with Matt Nieto, who failed to get off a one-timer but instead slid the puck back to Marleau for his 58th career playoff goal.

NOTES: Brown played a night after his wife, Kati, gave birth to their second son, Zane Michael. ... Jones made four saves in his first career playoff game.

Ex-quarterback McNabb spends day in Arizona jail

MESA, Ariz. (AP) Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was released Thursday from an Arizona jail after serving a one-day sentence for a DUI arrest late last year.

Records released by West Mesa Justice Court show McNabb served his time Wednesday and was released about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

McNabb, 37, was arrested Dec. 15 in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community east of Phoenix, according to court records.

A copy of the citation shows McNabb was stopped on the Loop 101 freeway just after 3 a.m. and radar clocked his Range Rover at 81 mph in a 65-mph zone. He also was cited for DUI, but no information about blood-alcohol level was on the citation.

McNabb pleaded guilty on March 27 and nine days of his sentence was suspended.

Court documents show McNabb was ordered to pay a nearly $1,500 fine and enter an outpatient treatment program in Scottsdale from April 10 to July 8.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office released McNabb's mug shot Thursday morning, starting a media frenzy about his arrest, which hadn't been previously reported.

The agency later said in a statement that McNabb was booked into a detention facility on Wednesday by order of the West Mesa Justice Court and released after serving one day for a misdemeanor DUI charge.

McNabb's Phoenix-based attorney Stephen Benedetto didn't immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment on the case.

McNabb played 13 years in the NFL after being drafted with the second overall pick in 1999.

He led the Philadelphia Eagles to four straight NFC championship games from 2001 to 2004 and one Super Bowl berth that ended in a 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots in 2005.

McNabb played for the Washington Redskins in 2010 and Minnesota Vikings in 2011 before retiring. He currently co-hosts a sports talk radio show and has a home in the Phoenix area.

Dodgers' Puig focuses on baseball despite issues

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Yasiel Puig believes he has the support from his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates and the club to help him keep his focus on baseball despite challenges off the field.

Puig returned to the starting lineup in right field for Thursday's series finale against the Giants amid reports that smugglers who helped him defect from Cuba had threatened his life.

"I'm only concentrating on the season and being the best teammate and helping my teammates," Puig said, speaking in Spanish during an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday morning at his locker in AT&T Park.

While Puig won't address the details specifically because of a pending legal case, he said he will focus on baseball and on helping the defending NL West champion Dodgers keep winning. He went 1 for 4 with a strikeout in Thursday's 2-1 victory. While he dropped a routine fly to right, he also made two nice catches on the run.

"I have great teammates who are helping support me so much this season and to focus on the season when I get to the stadium so I am comfortable," Puig said. "That way I don't start thinking about anything negative in the stadium. I'm only thinking about working on the things that are going to make me a better ballplayer."

The 23-year-old, scratched from the starting lineup after arriving late for his team's home opener April 4, is hitting .250 with one home run and five RBIs in his second major league season.

He said after the game he is committed to baseball "so those things that are happening don't torment me."

"We're at the field right now. We've just got to be thinking about baseball," teammate Hanley Ramirez said. "What I've seen is he's been learning and he's just happy to be here. He's playing today and he told me he's going to do everything it takes to win today's game."

Manager Don Mattingly said he has read articles about Puig's journey and will offer support. He has spoken briefly with the outfielder, but not regarding specifics of his journey to the United States - saying if Puig wants to keep those details private, he will respect that wish.

Mattingly is committed to helping Puig, who signed a $42 million, seven-year contract.

Court documents, part of a federal lawsuit in Miami, say smugglers who helped Puig leave Cuba on a speedboat have made death threats against him and against a Cuban boxer who says he defected with Puig. Boxer Yunior Despaigne says in an affidavit he is afraid of being harmed by the smugglers or their associates if Puig hasn't paid them money he owes.

"He hasn't talked about his background. Nobody's told me about his background. Nobody's told me about his story," Mattingly said. "If it's true, it's a wild story."

Other Cuban big leaguers have shared similar experiences. In Oakland, Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes discussed in February 2013 how he worried constantly about his family members the previous season as they made their way to the U.S. He wasn't sure whether they might be targeted because of his legal issues stemming from a former agent who claimed the outfielder owed him money.

"If you care about Yasiel, you worry about some serious stuff there that he has to deal with," Mattingly said. "If you care about him as a person, you worry about what he's going through."

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AP Legal Affairs Writer Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.

Minnesota State team to return under Hoffner

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) Minnesota State football players ended their boycott of spring practice and said Thursday they will play for coach Todd Hoffner, who was reinstated after being exonerated of having child pornography on his cellphone.

The players had refused to practice Wednesday as a show of support for interim coach Aaron Keen, who took over after Hoffner was arrested in 2012 because images of his naked children were found on a university-issued cellphone. A judge later said he had been wrongly accused and the images were an innocent video of his children playing after a bath.

"As a team, we are ready to get back to playing football," junior defensive back Sam Thompson and sophomore wide receiver Kyle Riggott said in a statement after the players and coaching staff held a nearly two-hour closed-door meeting Thursday.

The players had said on Wednesday they felt shut out of the process of Hoffner returning.

"We received the answers we were looking for, feel fit to practice and welcome Coach Hoffner as we head toward the end of spring drills," the players said after the team meeting. They will return to practice Friday.

After his arrest, Hoffner was suspended, reassigned and fired for reasons that the school declined to make public. His supporters said the school overreacted in the wake of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State, noting his high-profile arrest came just months after retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of child sex abuse.

A report from an arbitrator said Hoffner was accused of viewing porn on his work computer and letting his wife use the device, and that neither charge was proven.

Hoffner, 47, accepted the head coaching job at Minot State University in January. But after he was cleared of wrongdoing, Hoffner decided to return to Mankato, saying it would "help heal that injury." The university apologized to Hoffner on Tuesday and welcomed him back.

The reinstated coach said he does not take the players' actions personally.

"It's clear there has been a shift in the culture and I look forward to adapting and integrating many of those positive changes into my leadership of the program and the pursuit of the ultimate goal of winning a national championship," Hoffner said in a statement.

Athletic director Kevin Buisman said it had been a "challenging situation for everyone involved," but the school was committed to making a smooth transition for the coach and players.

Under interim coach Keen, Minnesota State finished 11-1 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament. But they were also successful under Hoffner: 34-13 in his four seasons from 2008-12.

Duke freshman Jabari Parker declares for NBA draft

Jabari Parker is hoping to become Duke's latest one-and-done star to become the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

The 6-foot-8 All-American forward said Thursday he'll enter the NBA draft after being the highest-scoring freshman in Duke history. He was also the first freshman to lead the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding, and the first freshman in three decades to be selected team MVP.

Now he has the chance to do what Kyrie Irving did in 2011: follow a one-year stay at Duke by being the first name called in the June draft.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement Thursday it was "an honor for us to have him in our program." In an essay posted on SI.com, Parker said the NBA offers him the best chance to develop both as a player and off the court.

"I realize how much of a privilege and an honor it is to join the ranks of the NBA," Parker wrote. "I will do everything in my power to help deliver championships to the franchise that drafts me. At the same time, I recognize the obligation to represent the league in an admirable way off the court."

Parker played in high school at Chicago's Simeon Career Academy and was frequently mentioned along with Kansas' Andrew Wiggins as possible No. 1 picks before ever playing a college game.

Parker led the Atlantic Coast Conference with an average of 8.7 rebounds while his 19.1 points were second only to North Carolina State's T.J. Warren, who entered the NBA draft last week.

"Jabari could not have been better," Krzyzewski said. "He is the epitome of what you would want a basketball player to be - outstanding every day on the practice court and in the classroom and a very humble young man.

"He had a fantastic freshman year and is so deserving of the opportunity to play in the NBA and follow his dream."

Parker is listed as the No. 2 draft prospect on Chad Ford's Top 100 on ESPN.com, the No. 2 pick in a mock draft on NBAdraft.net and No. 3 on DraftExpress.com.

It had long been believed that Duke would be a one-year pit stop for Parker on his way to the pros. But even late into the season, he insisted he was undecided, saying he wanted to play at the level that would best help him grow.

When he received the USBWA's Tisdale Award as the nation's top freshman this week, he said he planned to meet with Krzyzewski and reach a decision Wednesday.

In his SI.com essay, Parker said he had "gotten pretty attached to life at Duke and I don't want to utter the word goodbye." He also noted that the careers of professional basketball players - his father, Sonny, played six seasons in the NBA - last only so long.

"The lucky ones play until their mid-30s," Parker said. "With that perspective, I shrink my professional career with each year that I remain in college. It's ironic, but true."

Parker - the fifth Duke player to enter the draft as a freshman - said he planned to continue working toward a college degree. He is Mormon and said he would put a two-year mission on hold.

From Day 1, he and Rodney Hood - a redshirt sophomore transfer from Mississippi State - were the focal points for a Duke team that spent much of the season in the top 10 and looked like a Final Four contender. But Duke (26-9) ended the season with a loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament final and a shocking loss to Mercer in its NCAA tournament opener.

Hood hasn't announced whether he will enter the draft, though Krzyzewski said "I wish we had him for more than one year" after Duke's ACC tournament win against Clemson last month.

Regardless, Duke is bolstered by the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, led by top overall recruit Jahlil Okafor along with top-10 prospects Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow.

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AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Aaron Hernandez associate accused of lying to feds

BOSTON (AP) An associate of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested in a gun trafficking investigation related to the murder case against Hernandez.

Oscar Hernandez Jr., 23, of Orlando, Fla. - no relation to Aaron Hernandez - was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Boston on charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying under oath. He appeared Thursday in federal court in Orlando, where a magistrate judge ordered him detained pending his transfer to Boston to face the charges.

Aaron Hernandez and two other men are charged in the June 17 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was found dead in an industrial park about a mile from Aaron Hernandez's North Attleborough home.

The indictment against Oscar Hernandez says a grand jury in Massachusetts began investigating the transporting of guns from Florida to Massachusetts after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - at the request of Massachusetts State Police - traced three guns that had been recovered during the investigation of Lloyd's killing. The ATF determined that all three guns were purchased in Florida in April 2013.

Massachusetts officials have said they have been unable to find the gun used to kill Lloyd, which they've identified as a .45-caliber Glock.

None of the three guns mentioned in Oscar Hernandez's indictment is a .45-caliber Glock.

The indictment says one of the three weapons - a rifle - was found in a gray Toyota Camry with Florida license plates that was parked in the garage of a residence in North Attleborough. The indictment doesn't identify the owner of the home.

The indictment doesn't identify the owner of the home, but Massachusetts state police have said that five days after Lloyd's killing they seized an FEG 7.62 mm rifle from a gym bag on the back seat of a Toyota sedan parked inside Aaron Hernandez's garage, according to court records in his case.

Aaron Hernandez's lawyers have said a man identified as Oscar Hernandez was interviewed by law enforcement on June 27, 2013, 10 days after Lloyd died.

The new indictment accuses Oscar Hernandez of lying to the grand jury when he denied purchasing the Camry and arranging for it to be sent from Florida to the home in North Attleborough.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Todd Doss, who represented Oscar Hernandez in court Thursday, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. It was unclear when he would be brought to Boston to face the charges.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison on the witness tampering charge, up to 10 years on obstruction of justice and up to five years on the false testimony charges.

LeBron still No. 1 with NBA's most-popular jersey

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James' jersey remains the most popular in the NBA.

The league announced Thursday that the Miami Heat star topped the list of jersey sales in the NBA for the sixth time. With teammate Dwyane Wade - whose jersey number hasn't changed in 11 years - at No. 7, the Heat also had the top spot on the team-merchandise sales list.

"It means a lot to know that I have so many fans that want to wear my jersey because they respect the way I play the game and respect who I am as a man," James said. "Thanks so much to all that `Strive for Greatness."'

Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City is No. 2 on the list, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Chicago's Derrick Rose, Golden State's Stephen Curry and New York's Carmelo Anthony.

Wade was next, followed by Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, Houston's James Harden, the Clippers' Blake Griffin, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Boston's Rajon Rondo, San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Indiana's Paul George.

It was Duncan's first appearance on the season-ending list since 2007.

Following the two-time defending champion Heat on the team-merchandise sales list were the Lakers, Bulls, Thunder and Knicks.

The NBA based the rankings on overall retail sales on NBAStore.com since the start of the season. The league's playoffs begin Saturday.

Atlanta lands MLS expansion team for 2017

ATLANTA (AP) Arthur Blank donned traditional soccer garb to mark his newest venture - an MLS team for Atlanta.

"I love this one," Blank said, looking down at the red, black and gold scarf draped over his dark suit. "I haven't taken it off since it was given to me. I may not sleep in it tonight, but I may. I haven't decided yet."

Major League Soccer announced its latest team Wednesday, an expansion team for Atlanta that will begin play in 2017 at the city's new retractable roof stadium.

The team will be owned by Blank, who also controls the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. He said it was the culmination of a process that started about a decade ago, when he first started talks with MLS about bringing a team to the city.

The off-and-on discussions picked up again after Blank reached a deal with the city last year to build a new $1 billion downtown stadium next to the soon-to-be-demolished Georgia Dome. He is putting up most of the money, with the city kicking in $200 million from a hotel tax.

"I think Atlanta is a natural fit for Major League Soccer," said Blank, who was serenaded by a burgeoning fan group that calls itself "Terminus Legion," a reference to the city's former name.

The team's name has not been determined. Blank said he will get input from the fans before deciding on the new moniker, though he already knows the colors: red and black - matching the Falcons - with a substantial amount of gold as well.

"What the name will be, we really don't know," he said. "We will spend a lot of time listening to our fans and trying to understand why some names are more important than others, why certain designs are more important than others, why certain logos are more important than others."

One name that won't be considered: Atlanta Chiefs, the name of two previous teams that played in the old North American Soccer League. While the Chiefs won the first NASL championship in 1968, both versions struggled financially and eventually folded.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said there was no hesitation about putting a team in Atlanta once Blank worked out a stadium deal.

It is the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and the biggest without a top-level soccer team. The city has a large Hispanic population and last month drew more than 68,000 fans to the Georgia Dome for a friendly between Mexico and Nigeria.

"This is something that will help elevate our league," Garber said. "It will also elevate our sport in the entire Southeast, which is something that is very important to us strategically."

The league went all out to tout its newest team. Hundreds of fans turned out for a street festival before Blank and Garber arrived by helicopter for the introductory news conference, touching down on the roof of a downtown hotel overlooked Centennial Olympic Park. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also attended.

While the new stadium is primarily designed for the Falcons, Blank stressed that it will be soccer-friendly. The stands along the sideline will have the capability to retract, accommodating the larger soccer pitch while maintaining sightlines.

Curtains will descend from the roof automatically to close off the upper sections, creating the sort of intimate atmosphere that works better for less-attended MLS games.

The new facility is designed to seat about 71,000 for NFL games, Blank said, but can be reduced to about 29,000 for soccer using only the lower bowl.

"There will never be an MLS game in Atlanta where NFL lines are shown on the field," Blank said, drawing a big cheer.

MLS, which has 19 teams this season, is expanding rapidly with a goal of having 24 teams by the end of the decade. Orlando and New York City are scheduled to begin play next season, and the league has awarded a provisional team in Miami to a group led by David Beckham, contingent on a soccer-specific stadium being built.

The league has added five teams in the past five years, including the hugely successful Seattle Sounders. Garber said there is no worry about growing too fast given the abundance of soccer talent around the world.

"When we expand, we can pick from players around the world," Garber said. "We could change the roster rules, the international player limits, and have no dilution in talent."

Blank said he will try to encourage some crossover between Falcons' season-ticket holders and those interested in attending MLS games. But he acknowledged the teams are likely to have very different fan bases, making it clear the new soccer team will not merely be a side business for the Falcons.

His first priority is to hire a team president for the MLS venture. He will also be exploring possible locations for a state-of-the-art training facility.

"We don't want any stepchildren in our family," Blank said. "We want to make sure the people running soccer get up in the morning thinking about soccer and go to bed thinking about soccer."

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

Anaheim Ducks hold off Stars 4-3 in series opener

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves to win his NHL playoff debut, and the Anaheim Ducks opened the postseason with a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.

Getzlaf, Kyle Palmieri and Mathieu Perreault scored in a dominant first period for the top-seeded Ducks, who began their playoff run on a dead sprint. Anaheim led 4-0 midway through the second period before Dallas got rolling in its first playoff game since 2008.

Captain Jamie Benn and Colton Sceviour had power-play goals, and Tyler Seguin scored with 6:07 left to trim the Ducks' lead to one. Anaheim hung on with a handful of big saves from Andersen, a 24-year-old Danish rookie.

Game 2 is Friday.

Matt Beleskey had a goal and an assist before incurring a lower-body injury in the third period, leaving a hole on the Ducks' top line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Getzlaf then got hit in the face with the puck with 16 seconds left, sending him to the dressing room early.

Benn and Sceviour scored in their postseason NHL debuts, but the Stars couldn't escape their early hole despite an impressive game from their high-scoring top line of Benn, Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin, which accounted for 14 shots.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 shots for the wild-card Stars, who ended their five-year playoff drought thanks to new coach Lindy Ruff and seven Stanley Cup winners on their roster.

Anaheim is the Western Conference's No. 1 seed for the first time after the best regular season in franchise history, setting new marks for victories (54), points (116) and goals (263) while winning its second straight Pacific Division title.

But after the second-seeded Ducks were knocked off in the first round by Detroit last year, Anaheim is overdue for playoff success. The Ducks have won just one postseason round since their only Stanley Cup title in 2007, and just four players remain from that championship team.

One of those players is Teemu Selanne, who plans to retire after the season. The 43-year-old Finnish Flash began his 13th NHL postseason with an assist.

Stephane Robidas also faced his former teammates for the first time since Dallas traded the veteran defenseman to Anaheim last month.

Andersen, who went 20-5 in his first NHL season, got the start over veteran Jonas Hiller, who has fallen out of favor with coach Bruce Boudreau after a handful of poor starts.

After a raucous pregame reception from their orange towel-waving fans, the Ducks wasted no time. Nick Bonino lifted an exceptional pass over diving defenseman Aaron Rome to Palmieri for a backhand goal just 1:53 in.

Getzlaf led a rush and converted a rebound of Beleskey's shot off Lehtonen's mask later in the period, and Perreault put Anaheim up 3-0 with a power-play goal on exceptional passes from Patrick Maroon and Getzlaf.

Beleskey got credit for the Ducks' second power-play goal when Francois Beauchemin's long shot deflected off his leg midway through the second period.

Dallas got a 5-on-3 advantage for 56 seconds late in the period, and Benn scored easily on a rebound before Sceviour wired a stoppable shot through Andersen's legs, halving the Ducks' lead.

Anaheim controlled play in the third, with Maroon missing an open net, before Seguin tipped Trevor Daley's pass by Andersen. Seguin infamously scored just one goal in 22 playoff games for Boston last season.

NOTES: Anaheim's long-struggling power play hadn't scored multiple goals in a game since Jan. 15, when the Ducks got six against Vancouver. ... LW Ray Whitney returned to the Stars' lineup after missing the last six games with a lower-body injury, but D Brenden Dillon missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Nichushkin, who turned 19 last month, made his NHL playoff debut two months after playing in his first Olympics for Russia. ... Getzlaf had his 19th career multipoint playoff game, while Beleskey had his first.

Weise's OT goal lifts Canadiens over Lightning 5-4

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Dale Weise scored 18:08 into overtime to give the Montreal Canadiens a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening game of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series on Wednesday night.

Daniel Briere fed a pass to Weise from behind the net to set up the winner against Anders Lindback, who stopped 39 of 44 shots while filling in for injured goaltender Ben Bishop.

Carey Price stopped 21 shots for the Canadiens, who blew a pair of third-period leads. Brian Gionta had a short-handed goal and Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and Thomas Vanek also scored for Montreal.

Steven Stamkos scored twice for Tampa Bay, including the goal that forced overtime.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.

White wash: Yanks sweep Cubs 3-0, 2-0

NEW YORK (AP) Michael Pineda followed an overpowering outing by Masahiro Tanaka with one of his own, pitching six innings of four-hit ball as the New York Yankees beat the Chicago Cubs 2-0 on a bitterly cold Wednesday night to complete its first doubleheader shutout sweep since 1987.

Tanaka (2-0) struck out 10 and allowed just two bunt hits - one replay aided - over eight innings in a 3-0 win in the opener of the day-night twinbill. Carlos Beltran homered for a third straight game, off Jason Hammel in the first inning of the Cubs' first regular-season game at the current Yankee Stadium.

Brett Gardner and Scott Sizemore had RBI singles off Travis Wood (0-2) in the nightcap, helping the Yankees win for the fifth time in six games and handing Chicago its fourth straight loss.

New York had not won by shutout twice in one day since April 9, 1987, against Kansas City, according to STATS, and no tea, in the major leagues had done it since Minnesota swept Oakland on June 26, 1988.

The Cubs had not been blanked twice on the same day since Larry Gibson and Ray Sadecki pitched complete games for St. Louis on June 27, 1962.

Jets sign former Titans RB Chris Johnson

NEW YORK (AP) Always fast on the field, Chris Johnson is looking to quickly prove his critics wrong.

The New York Jets signed the former Titans running back Wednesday, a little over a week after he was officially released by Tennessee.

Johnson met with the Jets all day Tuesday - the first team he visited - and stayed in town to watch the Knicks-Nets game in Brooklyn before signing Wednesday. The Jets announced the move, but didn't release terms.

In a text message to The Associated Press, Johnson confirmed it was a two-year deal.

"I have a fresh start," Johnson told The Tennessean. "Now I am going to go out there with a chip on my shoulder. I know a lot of people are doubting me."

Johnson was told by the Titans of their decision April 4, ending a six-year stint in Tennessee during which he became one of the NFL's most exciting running backs. The former 2,000-yard rusher will team with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell to give coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg a deep and dangerous backfield.

The Jets also have Mike Goodson, who is dealing with legal issues and recovering from torn knee ligaments.

"I've always been a big fan of the Jets," Johnson told the team's website. "There was some thought into this, but just at the end of the day, I was comfortable here. I just felt like it was the right situation."

While his days as a workhorse running back - he carried the ball over 300 times in each of the 2009 and 2010 seasons - might be over, Johnson could be the perfect complement to the bruising Ivory and versatile Powell. In Mornhinweg's first season as offensive coordinator, the Jets finished sixth in the league in rushing last year with Ivory and Powell sharing the load.

Despite the solid production, New York still entered the offseason aiming to improve the position with a big-play runner.

That's exactly what they're hoping to get in the speedy and durable Johnson, who turns 29 in September and is only the sixth player to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons.

"I see this as a team on the rise," Johnson told newyorkjets.com. "This is a winning team."

But there have been questions about whether he'll ever be the same player who rushed for 2,006 yards in 2009, when he earned his "CJ2K" nickname.

Johnson finished with 1,077 yards - the second-lowest total of his career - and a career-worst 3.9-yard average last season. He also rushed for 100 or more yards just twice.

The Jets held Johnson to just 21 yards on 15 carries in their 38-13 loss last season at Tennessee, but Johnson gouged them for 122 yards on 21 carries, including a career-best 94-yard touchdown run, in 2012.

The splashy move is reminiscent of the one the Jets made in 2010, when they signed an aging LaDainian Tomlinson, who turned out to be a useful role player. While being deliberate throughout free agency, general manager John Idzik has now signed arguably the three best players available at their positions in Johnson, quarterback Michael Vick and wide receiver Eric Decker.

New York also showed early interest in free agency in running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Donald Brown, but they signed elsewhere.

The Titans cut ties with Johnson, making him a free agent, to avoid paying the $8 million he was due for this season, along with the final three seasons left on the $53.5 million contract he signed in September 2011. Johnson, who set several franchise and NFL records during his time in Tennessee, repeatedly said he wouldn't take a pay cut this offseason.

That prompted the Titans to unsuccessfully explore trade options this offseason- including with the Jets - before releasing him. Johnson's exit appeared inevitable when Tennessee signed Dexter McCluster to a three-year deal and re-signed Leon Washington to join Shonn Greene in the backfield.

"The Titans were ready to move on," Johnson said in his interview with The Tennessean. "They didn't want me anymore. But everything is going to work out."

Johnson was the 24th overall pick in the 2008 draft out of East Carolina, and had never missed a game because of injury - despite having surgery after the season to repair a torn meniscus that he played with most of the year.

He has 7,965 career yards on 1,742 carries for a 4.6-yard average, including 50 touchdowns, and ranks third on Tennessee's franchise rushing list behind Eddie George and Earl Campbell. Johnson also has caught 272 passes for 2,003 yards and eight TDs.

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AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

AP Source: Giants sign QB Josh Freeman as backup

A person familiar with the deal says quarterback Josh Freeman has agreed to terms with the New York Giants.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the team had not announced the move.

Freeman was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in October after a messy split. He signed with Minnesota four days later, but played just one game for the Vikings.

That happened to come against the Giants, when he went 20 for 53 for 190 yards and one interception in the ugly 23-7 Monday night loss.

The 17th pick in the 2009 draft, Freeman started 59 games for the Bucs over four-plus seasons before the relationship soured. He threw for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns with six interceptions in 2010.

Freeman would compete to back up Eli Manning with the Giants.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Officer: Sharper's DNA found on 1 Arizona victim

PHOENIX (AP) Former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper's DNA was found in an examination of one of two women who accuse him of drugging and sexually assaulting them at a Tempe apartment, a detective said Wednesday.

Tempe police Detective Kevin Mace said at a bail hearing in Phoenix that Sharper's DNA was recovered from one of the women's clothing, but none of his DNA was found during an exam of the other woman.

The detective's testimony came at a hearing in which Sharper's lawyers are challenging the evidence used to keep him in jail without bail. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Warren Granville hasn't yet ruled on the issue and will continue the hearing Thursday afternoon.

The hearing marks the latest development in several ongoing sexual assault investigations involving Sharper in Louisiana, California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada.

Bail in Sharper's California rape case was set at $1 million, but he was indicted in Arizona last month on charges of sexual assault and administering dangerous drugs and was denied bail. Authorities in California have kept him jailed, and he didn't attend Wednesday's hearing.

The indictment alleges Sharper gave the sedative zolpidem to three women and then had "sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact" with two of them without their consent on Nov. 21 after a night of drinking at the apartment and at bars in nearby Scottsdale. One of the women told police she hadn't had any alcohol that night until Sharper insisted she drink a shot. Another young woman said she had been drugged, then went to bed, locked her door and wasn't attacked.

Sharper has not yet entered a plea in the Arizona case, although one of his attorneys said Sharper will deny those allegations. He has pleaded not guilty in the California case.

Earlier this month, Granville denied a request from Sharper's attorneys to set bail, ruling that he didn't have jurisdiction until the former player was in Arizona. But Sharper's attorneys said the former player is entitled to a hearing to determine whether Arizona prosecutors have enough evidence on the sexual assault charges to deny him bail.

The Arizona Constitution automatically denies bail to people charged with sexual assault if the proof against them is evident or the presumption of guilt is great.

Mace said two of the three women confronted Sharper the day after the attack.

"He denied the allegations," the detective said. "He acted like he didn't remember."

A police search of the apartment turned up a shot glass with a white residue that turned out to be zolpidem, and California investigators have discovered Sharper had a prescription for that drug, Mace said.

Under questioning from Sharper's attorney Skip Donau, Mace said the former player had a prior consensual sexual relationship with one of the women, who had invited him to stay at the apartment.

Mace said the woman in question, who was intoxicated on the night of the attack, had no indication on how her clothes got removed after her friends dressed her in shorts and put her to bed. None of Sharper's DNA was found on her, Mace said.

After Sharper was confronted the next day at the apartment, the woman was supposed to drop off Sharper in Scottsdale but then joined him for brunch with friends, Mace said.

An analysis of that woman's blood and urine came back negative for the sedative, though she had amphetamine and the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana in her system, Mace said.

Sark: Cody Kessler is still USC's starting QB

LOS ANGELES (AP) Cody Kessler is still Southern California's starting quarterback after holding off a challenge from freshman Max Browne during the Trojans' spring workouts.

New coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed Kessler's spot Tuesday night, saying the junior will start the Trojans' spring game at the Coliseum on Saturday.

"I think he has deserved it," Sarkisian told reporters after USC's penultimate practice of the spring. "I think he has earned it. He has performed well. Sometimes when you get that sense of relief, you go out there and perform even better.

Kessler has picked up Sarkisian's offense with impressive speed, adjusting to an increased tempo and using his improvisational skills to create chances. His experience and decision-making skills tilted the competition in his favor, Sarkisian said.

His victory isn't permanent, however: The competition with freshmen Browne and Jalen Greene will continue in fall camp, Sarkisian said.

"That's the beauty of competition," Sarkisian said. "But I'm confident to say I know we can go out and win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback. There's still plenty of room for him to grow within this system. He's still just 13 practices in, but I'm proud of all these guys. They've worked extremely hard."

Kessler started all 14 games as a sophomore last season, passing for 2,968 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions while playing for three head coaches. He was the MVP of the Trojans' victory over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, passing for a career-high 345 yards and four TDs.

But Kessler didn't even win the full-time job until the third game of the season. Coach Lane Kiffin felt Kessler hadn't separated himself from Max Wittek, who also got playing time before Kiffin decided to stick with Kessler.

Kiffin was fired two games later, but Kessler kept the job under interim coaches Ed Orgeron and Clay Helton, who returned to Sarkisian's staff.

Browne redshirted last season, but much is expected from the nation's top high-school quarterback in 2012.

Sarkisian knows both quarterbacks well: He recruited Kessler and Browne to Washington when he was the Huskies' head coach, nearly landing Kessler before the quarterback from Bakersfield got a late scholarship offer from the Trojans. Browne is from the Seattle suburbs.

"I think Max is going to be a star," Sarkisian said.

Browne said he will never transfer from the Trojans, which means the quarterback competition at USC could be entertaining for the foreseeable future. Greene also has four years of eligibility left, and highly touted recruit Ricky Town has already committed to USC in the class of 2015.

Panthers jump Sabres to win NHL draft lottery

NHL draft lottery losers last year, the Florida Panthers had their number come up this year.

In the meantime, chalk up yet another loss for the Buffalo Sabres.

The Panthers bucked the odds Tuesday by jumping up a spot and earned the right to the top pick in June. Florida, which finished 29th in the league, vaulted ahead of the last-place Sabres, who had the best odds of winning the lottery held in Toronto.

"It means a lot to us. We've very excited," said Travis Viola, Panthers president of hockey operations. "We're looking to continue to build on our core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity."

It also marked a reversal of fortune for Florida.

After finishing last a year ago, the Panthers were relegated to the No. 2 pick after Colorado won the lottery.

The top two projected prospects are left wing Samuel Bennett, of OHL Kingston, who finished first in the final rankings released by NHL Central Scouting last week, and OHL Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

The draft will be held in Philadelphia on June 27-28.

The Panthers (29-45-8) had an 18.8 percent chance of winning the lottery, behind only Buffalo (21-51-10), which had a 25 percent shot.

The Sabres continued what's been a losing trend since the season began in October.

Buffalo's 51 losses were a franchise worst, and the most losses in the NHL since the New York Islanders went 21-51-7-3 in 2000-01.

General manager Tim Murray took the latest loss in stride, telling the team's website that he almost anticipated losing out on the No. 1 pick.

"We're very comfortable," Murray said. "The other way would've been gravy, but it's kind of what we thought would happen, and we prepared for it."

The Sabres were guaranteed falling no further than second.

Florida will have the first pick for the fourth time in franchise history.

The Panthers are gradually rebuilding. They made a splash this year by acquiring goalie Roberto Luongo in a trade with Vancouver. And they'll be picking third or better for the fourth time in five years.

Their previous top three picks - defenseman Erik Gudbranson (in 2010), wing Jonathan Huberdeau (2011) and center Aleksander Barkov (2013) - all played significant roles this season.

"We're anxious to put a winner in Florida," Viola said.

The Panthers' move up marked the fourth straight year in which the last-place team failed to win the lottery. Since the NHL lottery system was introduced in 1995, the last-place team has earned the No. 1 pick only six times.

The Panthers had the No. 1 pick in the 2002 and 2003 drafts, but traded them away both times. They also had the No. 1 pick in 1994, when they selected defenseman Ed Jovanovski.

The remaining 11 teams maintained their draft order based on the final standings, starting with the Edmonton Oilers staying with the No. 3 draft pick. Calgary will select fourth followed by the New York Islanders.

The top 10 picks are rounded out by Vancouver picking sixth, followed by Carolina, Toronto, Winnipeg and Anaheim. The Pacific Division champion Ducks earned a lottery spot by acquiring a first-round pick in a trade with Ottawa, which finished 21st.

The New Jersey Devils, who finished 20th, were included in the lottery to maintain the weighted odds, but were not eligible to be selected.

The Devils are already slotted to pick 30th after being sanctioned by the NHL. The league ruled New Jersey circumvented the collective bargaining agreement by attempting to skirt the salary cap by signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a 17-year, $102 million contract in 2010.

Center Sam Reinhart (WHL Kootenay) and left wing Leon Draisaitl (WHL Prince Albert) were ranked third and fourth among North American skaters, while the top-ranked European skater is Finnish right wing Kasperi Kapanen.

The Sabres actually have a shot at holding three first-round picks based on two trades they made this year. The Islanders have to until June 1 to decide whether to hand over their first-round selection to Buffalo this year or next year. Islanders head amateur scout Trent Klatt said the team has not yet determined its plans.

The Sabres will also acquire the Blues' first-round pick should St. Louis reach the Western Conference finals.

White Sox wear Boston Strong on 1-year anniversary

CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago White Sox have paid tribute to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing before their game against the Red Sox.

The White Sox played a video montage and held a moment of silence as both teams lined up outside their dugouts Tuesday night to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. White Sox players and coaches wore T-shirts with the Boston Strong logo that the Red Sox often donned last year.

Red Sox manager John Farrell says hopefully this is "another day of healing for everyone involved, particularly the family of the victims."

"I think it's critical that we never forget the victims that have fallen," Farrell said before the game. "I think we're all proud to be part of the healing process, how small it might have been, and (it) makes us further proud to be part of an incredible city, a very strong community that I think became even stronger when we unified in response to it."

MLB marks 67th anniversary of Robinson debut

NEW YORK (AP) Marking the 67th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, the Rev. Jesse Jackson praised Commissioner Bud Selig for the strides the sport has taken in minority opportunities over the past two decades.

Jackson traveled to baseball's 1992 winter meetings to criticize its lack of minorities in management, and he pushed for change.

Selig retired Robinson's No. 42 in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of the big league debut of the Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman. Selig established a Diverse Business Partners program the following year and in 1999 started requiring clubs to consider at least one minority for each manager and major executive opening. MLB also sponsors 35 Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars.

Jackson said Jackie Robinson Day had become "a national holiday for all practical purposes."

"To honor Jackie in this way honors the best in America," Jackson told Selig on Tuesday at MLB's third Diversity Business Summit. "In many ways, had Jackie not succeeded you could not have Atlanta Falcons or the Braves or the Carolina Panthers. You could not have these southern teams if Jackie had failed."

Robinson's daughter, Sharon, presented Selig with a large plaque. Jackson spoke from the audience after Selig's speech and told him "you took to heart that challenge."

"I guess if you're commissioner long enough, things can turn around," Selig said later.

For the first time since Robinson's number was retired, no players in the major leagues were wearing No. 42. Players using the number were grandfathered at the time of Selig's announcement, and the last to use No. 42 was Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera, who retired at the end of last season.

"Today all of our players league-wide will wear No. 42 to celebrate the man who helped change the future course of our game and more importantly our country," Selig said.

A ceremony had been scheduled for Yankee Stadium to unveil a plaque commemorating Nelson Mandela's visit to the old Bronx ballpark in 1990. The Yankees' game against the Chicago Cubs was rained out, and the ceremony, which includes Zondwa Mandela, a grandson of the late South African president, was pushed back until Wednesday evening.

Selig frequently points out that Robinson's first game occurred more than a year before President Harry Truman desegregated the U.S. military and seven years before the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision that ruled state laws requiring segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

"Baseball must continue to be more than just a game on the field," Selig said. "The game's remarkable ability to serve as a common bond should be used to create opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender."

Selig became acting commissioner in 1992 and got the job permanently in 1998. He plans to retire in January. He said the Diverse Business Partners program had led to purchases of more than $1 billion in goods and services from minority- and women-owned businesses.

But the percentage of African-American players in the major leagues has been cut in half since peaking at about 18 percent at times from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s.

Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who is black, says some of this generation's players don't know of Robinson's accomplishments.

"They don't know a lot about the history, and I don't really blame it all on them. I think their generation is a generation that was force-fed these things," he said, holding up a smart phone. "Everything's now. Not much of an appreciation for the past and what it meant, particularly when it comes to baseball and baseball players. The paths that were paved for them, I don't think they really get it, or really understand it."

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.

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