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TEXAS TRACK TO SWAP OUT EARNHARDT ADS

Autos

Reason No. 1 for Texas Motor Speedway to replace billboards: unhappy Earnhardts.

Four indentical billboards referring to the strained relationship between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother, Teresa, will be replaced within the next two weeks. The flap is over ads featuring a picture of the driver and the wording "Reason 88: Step-Mom."

TMS president Eddie Gossage said Thursday that the billboards, part of a series of ads to promote the Sprint Cup (formerly Nextel) weekend at the track in April, will be changed after a request from Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, the driver's sister and business manager.

"The first thing I told her when I answered the phone was if you guys are uncomfortable with it, all you have to do is say the word," Gossage said.

No. 88 is a reference to Earnhardt's new car number with Hendrick Motorsports, the team he went to after last season when he decided to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc., his late father's company that is run by Teresa. He left DEI after months of contentious negotiations.

Earnhardt will still be displayed on the billboards, but the wording will change to "Reason 88: New Car Smell."

Balco Cases

New U.S. attorney may sit on sideline

U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello, the San Francisco Bay area's new top federal law enforcement official, may not play a direct role in the perjury case against Barry Bonds or other BALCO cases.

Russoniello said he must hold off while the Justice Department screens him for potential conflicts of interest. It is not uncommon for newly installed U.S. attorneys to recuse themselves from cases or investigations because of their own prior involvement or the involvement of their law firms. Russoniello was a lawyer in the law firm Cooley Godward Kronish, which often represents white-collar defendants in federal cases.

Boxing

Official backs out of Tyson event

African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma withdrew from a charity fundraising banquet in Johannesburg honoring former boxer Mike Tyson after being criticized by women's groups in South Africa.

Zuma was found not guilty of raping a family friend two years ago. Tyson served a three-year sentence for the 1991 rape of an 18-year-old beauty queen.

One women's group called "the pairing of Zuma and Tyson ... particularly distasteful and abhorrent."

Et Cetera

Figure skating:Johnny Weir, runnerup at the U.S Championships to Evan Lysacek, withdrew from the Four Continents competition Feb. 11-17 in Seoul, South Korea, citing fatigue. He still plans to skate at the world championships in March. ... Last week's U.S. Championships drew the most viewers in five years, attracting 12.5-million to NBC, up from 4.7-million on ABC and ESPN2 last year.

Soccer: Former national team player Lorrie Fair joined the Chelsea Ladies team, the first American to sign with the English team.

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