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MILESTONE

Barry Bonds hit his 700th home run Friday night, toppling another milestone and edging closer to Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in his quest to become the greatest slugger in baseball history.

Bonds rewarded his fans in the opener of the San Francisco Giants' nine-game homestand with a 392-foot opposite-field homer to left-center leading off the third inning. He connected on an 0-1 slider from Jake Peavy, giving the Giants a 4-0 lead over the San Diego Padres. The Giants won 4-1.

"It's great that I could do it at home," Bonds said.

As Bonds rounded second base, the Giants launched streamers and a fireworks display from the scoreboard and light towers in centerfield. He pointed skyward as he crossed home plate, then took a curtain call to a joyous standing ovation.

The Giants also unveiled two enormous banners on the light towers: One featuring Bonds with "700" below him, and another featuring action shots of Ruth and Aaron and their corresponding totals.

Bonds' 42nd homer of the season is a mere steppingstone in the 40-year-old's march toward Ruth's once-unthinkable 714 and Aaron's 755. Bonds hasn't been slowed by age, steroid suspicions or the collective fear of pitchers and managers walking him with record frequency.

Bonds is the first player to reach 700 since Aaron on July 21, 1973. With good health and similar production, he could catch Ruth early next season _ and even have an outside shot at Hammerin' Hank next fall.

"The good thing is I get to sleep now and stop having nightmares about this," said Bonds, who admitted that his 660th homer meant more to him than this one.

Bonds got another big ovation when he walked to leftfield after the inning and doffed his cap as the Giants unveiled one more tribute on the outfield wall behind him, a montage featuring the slogan: "A Giant Among Legends."

The ball was captured by Steven Williams, a 25-year-old fan from nearby Pacifica, in the middle of several fans. The ball rolled right in front of Williams while he was flat on the ground in the scrum.

"I'm looking around, all of a sudden I see this white thing flying through the sky," said Williams, who plans to sell the ball. "It's not going to eBay. It's worth whatever somebody will pay for it."

The game featured ideal conditions for Bonds' historic blast.

San Francisco is in a playoff chase largely thanks to Bonds' offensive production, increasing the importance of every homer. The slugger loves to face the Padres, who have allowed 79 of his homers _ 18 more than any other club.

Even the wind was cooperating, blowing out to rightfield at the Giants' waterfront ballpark. Amphibious fans began gathering well before the game, filling McCovey Cove with dozens of watercraft and ambitious swimmers.

Bonds has said he couldn't imagine surpassing Aaron as home run king. Aaron believes Bonds will pass him soon enough.

"I think it's just a matter of time _ maybe a year, two years," Aaron said. "I think he will. I'll be happy. Everybody will be after him then. They won't be involving me. Records are made to be broken."

Aaron endured racial epithets and death threats when he approached Ruth's record in the early 1970s. Bonds has endured speculation about his super-sized body and bulked-up power statistics that defy logic and age.

BIG SHOTS

Barry Bonds' milestone home runs with number, date, pitcher, Bonds' team and opponent:

1: June 4, 1986, off Craig McMurtry, Pittsburgh at Atlanta

100: July 12, 1990, off Andy Benes, Pittsburgh vs. San Diego

200: July 8, 1993, off Jose DeLeon, San Francisco at Philadelphia

300: April 30, 1996, off John Burkett, San Francisco vs. Florida

400: August 23, 1998, off Kirt Ojala, San Francisco at Florida

500: April 18, 2001, off Terry Adams, San Francisco vs. Los Angeles

564: October 4, 2001, off Wilfredo Rodriguez, San Francisco at Houston, tied Mark McGwire for single-season record with 70 homers.

567: October 7, 2001, off Dennis Springer, San Francisco vs. Los Angeles, set single-season record with 73 homers

600: August 9, 2002, off Kip Wells, San Francisco vs. Pittsburgh

660: April 12, 2004, off Matt Kinney, San Francisco vs. Milwaukee, tied Willie Mays for third on career list

700: September 17, 2004, off Jake Peavey, San Francisco vs. San Diego

Up next:SIDELINE

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