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Interest in football flagged for area viewers

Local television viewer interest in Sunday's Super Bowl didn't approach the record-setting ratings of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-St. Louis Rams NFC championship game Jan. 23 _ a game that dashed the Bucs' hopes of competing for the NFL title. The Rams' Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans drew a 40.1 rating, 53 share in TV-watching households for Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28. That means just over 40 percent of the 1.4-million homes with TV sets in the area's 10-county viewership region watched the game, and 53 percent of those watching TV had the game on. In comparison, the Bucs' Jan. 23 loss to the Rams scored a 50.7 rating and 74 share for WTVT-Ch. 13 _ the highest rating for a TV program locally since Nielsen began overnight measurements more than 10 years ago. Chris Raynor, a spokeswoman for WFTS, said she's just glad Tampa Bay fans' disappointment about the Bucs' loss didn't hurt ratings further. "Last week . . . people were saying "who cares about the Super Bowl' because the Bucs got so close," Raynor said. "But I'm pleased with the (ratings) we had. People tuned in as the game went on."

Elton John to perform

at Lakeland Center

Elton John, whose career has spanned 30 years and everything from Tommy to The Lion King, will perform March 17 at the Lakeland Center. Tickets, $49.50 and $59.90, go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday through Ticketmaster outlets. Call (727) 898-2100 or (813) 287-8844, or purchase tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Writer hospitalized

after fire at home

A fire at Kurt Vonnegut's Manhattan home sent the 77-year-old author to the hospital Sunday night suffering from smoke inhalation and slightly damaged his four-story townhouse, fire officials said. The cause of the blaze was under investigation; fire marshals suspected careless smoking by Vonnegut. Hospital officials would not comment on his condition; but his 17-year-old daughter, Lily, said he was "okay," though he probably will remain hospitalized for a few days. No one else was injured. The fire, in a study on the top floor, was spotted by a man who lives across the street from Vonnegut, Lily Vonnegut said.

_ Staff and wire reports

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