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RECORD SET, EMOTIONS SPILL OVER

Barry Bonds hit No. 756 to the deepest part of the ballpark Tuesday night, and hammered home the point: Like him or not, legitimate or not, he is baseball's new home run king.

Bonds broke Hank Aaron's all-time record in the fifth inning, connecting on a 3-and-2 pitch from Washington's Mike Bacsik. Three days earlier, Bonds tied the Hammer with a shot to left-center in San Diego.

"Thank you very much. I got to thank all of you, all the fans here in San Francisco. It's been fantastic," he said shortly after crossing home plate, his godfather, Willie Mays, at his side.

"I got to thank my teammates. Through all of this, you've been strong and given me all the support I needed and I'll never forget it as long as I live."

After thanking his children, he said: "I'm glad I did it before you guys went to school."

To the Nationals, he said: "Thank you for understanding this game. It means a lot to me."

He saved his late father, Bobby, for last.

"To my dad," he said, his voice breaking as he pointed to the sky. Through tears, he added, "Thank you for everything."

The game wasn't over at press time. Visit www.tampabay.com for details.

Conspicuous by their absence were the commissioner and Aaron.

Bud Selig was on hand for the tiebreaking homer, putting baseball history ahead of the steroid allegations that have plagued Bonds. On this night, he sent Major League Baseball executive vice president Jimmie Lee Solomon.

Aaron said all along he had no interest in being there whenever and wherever his 33-year-old mark was broken. He offered a taped message that played on the stadium's video board.

"I move over now and offer my congratulations to Barry and his family," Aaron said.

Absent, too, were the fans who held up asterisk signs, sure that Bonds wasn't the real deal and that his power came from steroids.

Bonds didn't face such suspicions at AT&T Park, in front of a home crowd. Bonds has always denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

Yet even with Bonds at the top of the chart, fans will keep debating which slugger they consider the true home run champion. Some will continue to cling to Aaron while other, older rooters will always say it's Babe Ruth.

"It's all about history. Pretty soon, someone will come along and pass him," Mays said before the game.

A seven-time NL MVP, the 43-year-old Bonds hit his 22nd home run of the year. Bonds broke Mark McGwire's single-season record by hitting 73 in 2001 and though he's no longer such a force, opposing pitchers remain wary.

Bonds and Giants management bickered in the offseason over contract issues. This big night was the main reason owner Peter Magowan brought back the star leftfielder for a 15th season in San Francisco, signing him to a $15.8-million, one-year contract.

Bonds' quest for the record had slowed in recent years as his age and balky knees diminished his pace. He hit 258 home runs from 2000-04 but has only 53 since.

While steroids have tinged Bonds' pursuit, it was race that was the predominant issue when Aaron broke Ruth's mark in 1974. Aaron dealt with hate mail and death threats from racist fans who thought a black man was not worthy of breaking the record set by a white hero, the beloved Babe.

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