The Baltimore Sun

Armstrong slow, steady in his first race back


Lance Armstrong made a cautious return to professional cycling yesterday, finishing 64th among 133 riders in a 30-mile criterium in Adelaide, Australia. More than 138,000 people watched Armstrong, 37, return from three years of retirement and begin a campaign to win his eighth Tour de France title. He stayed well back in a tight field throughout the race downtown on a winding circuit around leafy Rymill Park, following team instructions to avoid any chance of crashing. Armstrong will compete in the six-day Tour Down Under, which starts tomorrow. The criterium does not count toward Tour overall standings. "That was fun," Armstong said. "It felt good. I've been training a lot for this comeback and this race. It's good the first day is over, and now I can get into the racing." Australia's Robbie McEwen - a winner of 12 stages in the Tour de France - won the race for the Russian Team Katusha ahead of Willem Stroetinga of the Netherlands and fellow Australian Graeme Brown. Armstrong was ushered to the front of the field for the start of the race with another Tour de France winner, Oscar Perero of Spain, defending Tour Down Under champion Andre Greipel of Germany and Australian Stuart O'Grady. The seven-time Tour de France winner quickly settled into the middle of the peleton, avoiding any possibility of pileups on the tight corners of the one-mile circuit. "It's fun to get back into it," Armstrong said. "I found it a bit safer and easier in the back."

Stoudemire's 31 points lift Suns over Raptors


Amare Stoudemire scored 31 points, Steve Nash had a season-high 18 assists and the Phoenix Suns beat Toronto, 117-113, for their ninth consecutive victory over the struggling Raptors. Anthony Parker led Toronto with 26 points, Joey Graham scored a career-high 22 and Chris Bosh had 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors lost their fifth straight. Stoudemire's dunk with 3:18 left made it 114-109, but a put-back dunk by Jamario Moon and Parker's layup drew Toronto within a point. Parker missed a three-pointer from the top with 37 seconds left, and Nash converted a driving layup at the other end.

Heat 104, Thunder 94: : Dwyane Wade had 32 points and 10 assists to help Miami beat the Oklahoma City and finish 4-3 on its 12-day road trip. Yakhouba Diawara scored 14 points after starting in place of the injured Shawn Marion. Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 31 points.

Jazz: : Jerry Sloan will return as the coach for the 2009-10 season. The team said he has agreed to a one-year contract extension that will mark his 22nd season with Utah. Details of the contract were not available. Sloan is the longest-tenured coach in NBA history; he took over for former coach Frank Layden on Dec. 9, 1988.

Knicks:: Guard Stephon Marbury has again offered to give $1 million in salary back to the team as a way of renewing negotiations toward a buyout, the New York Post reported.

Z. Johnson shoots 65 to capture Sony Open


Zach Johnson won the Sony Open for his second victory in his past six starts on the PGA Tour, shooting a 5-under-par 65 to beat Adam Scott and David Toms by two shots in Honolulu. Johnson had a one-shot lead over Toms playing the par-5 18th, where he reached the green in two as Toms hit into a bunker. Tadd Fujikawa, the 18-year-old from Honolulu trying to become the youngest winner in tour history, started the final round two shots out of the lead but struggled to a 73 and tied for 32nd.

Champions Skins Game: : Fuzzy Zoeller successfully defended his title with new partner Ben Crenshaw, taking a dozen skins and $500,000 on the back nine to beat first-day leaders Greg Norman and Jay Haas in Kaanapali, Hawaii. Zoeller and Crenshaw finished the alternate-shot event with 13 skins and a record $530,000.

Report: Zetterberg, Wings close on deal

et cetera

Center Henrik Zetterberg and the Detroit Red Wings are closing in on a deal for possibly as long as 10 years, designed to keep the salary cap hit around $7 million a season, the Detroit Free Press reported. The team wants to get the contract signed by the March 4 trade deadline. The Wings are wary of how the current economic climate will affect the salary cap. "We've made progress in the last two weeks," general manager Ken Holland said. "There's still a little work to be done, but I'm optimistic." Zetterberg, 28, produced 43 goals and 49 assists last season.

More NHL: : Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk scored their 300th career goals in the host Avalanche's 6-2 win over the Flames, becoming just the second set of players in league history to reach the milestone in the same game. ... Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen is out indefinitely after having surgery yesterday to repair a fractured bone in his face. He was struck in the face Saturday by a shot from Carolina defenseman Tom Gleason. The shot appeared to be deflected. ... Blues defenseman Roman Polak fractured his right foot in Saturday's loss to the Blackhawks and will be out indefinitely.

NFL: : Former Rams coach Scott Linehan has declined the 49ers' offer to become their offensive coordinator. ... The Buccaneers fired six members of former coach Jon Gruden's staff, including offensive coordinator Bill Muir and offensive assistant Jay Gruden. ... Mike Pereira, who has headed the NFL's officiating department since 2001, will retire after the 2009 season. He will turn 60 next month.

Baseball: : Starter Cole Hamels signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract with the Phillies, keeping the 25-year-old World Series Most Valuable Player in Philadelphia through the 2011 season. The deal allows the Phillies to avoid an arbitration hearing.

Olympics: : Vancouver will borrow more than $360 million to ensure the $800 million athletes village will be built for the 2010 Winter Games. After 20 hours of consecutive debate, British Columbia lawmakers voted unanimously to support legislation that allows the city to borrow the money without going to a referendum.

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