Thursday's Sports In Brief

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Associated Press

Posted on December 27, 2013 at 4:06 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 27 at 5:06 AM

PRO FOOTBALL

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers was 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

NEW YORK (AP) — ACL injuries are down, the NFL has told its Health and Safety Advisory Committee.

In a memo to the committee sent earlier this week and obtained by The Associated Press, the league said research showed there were 30 ACL injuries in games through the preseason and first 13 weeks of the schedule. There were 39 such injuries in 2012, 35 in 2011, 37 in 2010, and 31 in 2009.

Anterior cruciate ligament problems are the most severe knee injuries.

There was an increase in medial collateral ligament injuries (MCL), from 74 in 2012 to 89 in games this season through 13 weeks. But there were 106 MCL injuries in 2011, 89 in 2010 and 103 in 2009.

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Jon Kitna will earn $53,000 to serve as the Cowboys' third-string quarterback for one week — and he plans to donate that money to the Seattle-area high school where he's now a coach.

Kitna told The Dallas Morning News of his plans Wednesday.

Kitna retired after the 2011 season, his 15th in the league, and has been coaching football at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., this season.

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PRO BASKETBALL

MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James of the Miami Heat was selected as The Associated Press' 2013 Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the third basketball player to capture the award in its 83-year history.

James received 31 of the 96 votes cast in a polling of news organizations. Peyton Manning got 20 votes to finish second; Jimmie Johnson was third with seven. In all, 15 other athletes received at least one vote.

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

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA said that its referees made a mistake when they ejected Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin in the Clippers' 105-103 loss at Golden State on Wednesday night.

Griffin was ejected for his second technical with 10:43 left after scuffling with Andrew Bogut, following Warriors forward Draymond Green to the showers after they got into it at the end of the third.

"After a league review of the Clippers-Warriors game, we have come to the conclusion that Blake Griffin should not have been ejected from the game," said Rod Thorn, the NBA's president of basketball operations.

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BASEBALL

BALTIMORE (AP) — Paul Blair, the eight-time Gold Glove center fielder who helped the Baltimore Orioles win a pair of World Series while gliding to make catches that former teammates still marvel at more than four decades later, died at 69.

Blair died at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Blair's wife, Gloria, told The Baltimore Sun, that Blair played a round of golf with friends Thursday morning and later lost consciousness at a celebrity bowling tournament in Pikesville.

NEW YORK (AP) — The bidding for Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has begun.

All 30 major league teams were notified that the 30-day period to sign the star 25-year-old right-hander began at 8 a.m. EST Thursday, according to MLB spokesman Michael Teevan. Clubs have until 5 p.m. on Jan. 24 to attempt to reach an agreement with the ace.

If Tanaka and a major league team come to terms, that franchise is required to pay his Japanese club, the Rakuten Eagles, a posting fee, now capped at $20 million under a deal reached two weeks ago between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball.

Tanaka will be represented by Excel Sports Management during the process. Other Excel Sports clients include Dodgers two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Michigan freshman quarterback Shane Morris will start in place of Devin Gardner in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Gardner sustained a turf toe injury in the Wolverines' final regular-season game against Ohio State and showed up in Arizona wearing a protective boot.

Coach Brady Hoke said that Morris will make his first college start against Kansas State after Gardner was unable to practice Wednesday.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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SOCCER

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Arsenal is back on top of the Premier League with the season about to reach its halfway point as Arsene Wenger looks to win the trophy for the first time in a decade.

Liverpool's stay atop the standings lasted less than a week. Arsenal came from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham behind Theo Walcott's two goals, and Liverpool lost 2-1 at Manchester City on Thursday.

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