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Friday’s Sports In Brief

January 23, 2021 GMT

BASEBALL

ATLANTA (AP) — Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record and gracefully left his mark with 755 homers and a legacy as one of baseball’s greatest all-around players, died Friday. He was 86.

The Atlanta Braves, Aaron’s longtime team, said he died peacefully in his sleep. No cause was given.

Aaron made his last public appearance just 2 1/2 weeks ago, when he received the COVID-19 vaccine. He said he wanted to help spread the word to Black Americans that the vaccine was safe.

“Hammerin’ Hank” set a wide array of career hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, including RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases.

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But the Hall of Famer will be remembered for one swing above all others, the one that made him baseball’s home-run king. It was a title he would be hold for more than 33 years, a period in which the Hammer slowly but surely claimed his rightful place as one of America’s most iconic sporting figures, a true national treasure worthy of mention in the same breath with Ruth or Ali or Jordan.

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Mets manager Davey Johnson was released from a Florida hospital after being treated for COVID-19, according to former Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz.

Horwitz said he spoke with Johnson briefly on Friday.

Johnson, 77, was a four-time All-Star second baseman and managed the Mets to their last World Series title in 1986.

Johnson also managed Cincinnati, Baltimore, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington, leading his teams to a 1,372-1,071 record and six first-place finishes. He also managed the U.S. to a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics and fourth place at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

NBA

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 38 points and 11 rebounds, Tobias Harris scored 23 points and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Boston Celtics 122-110.

Seth Curry returned to the Sixers’ starting lineup following a seven-game absence because of a positive COVID-19 test and scored 15 points.

Embiid followed a 42-point outing in a win over Boston on Wednesday night with another fantastic effort. He made 14 of 15 from the free-throw line -- a near-flawless retort after some mild criticism from Smart.

NHL

DALLAS (AP) — Joe Pavelski had two goals and two assists and Alexander Radulov also scored twice, helping Dallas beat the Nashville Predators 7-0 in the Stars’ delayed season opener.

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The Stars unveiled their Western Conference championship banner, and then rolled past the Predators.

The Stars were the last NHL team to open the season after their first four games, all scheduled on the road, were postponed because 17 players tested positive for COVID-19 during the abbreviated training camp.

Nashville played for the first time since Monday, a day before its second of back-to-back games against Carolina was postponed because of virus issues for the Hurricanes.

GOLF

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) — Sungjae Im shot a 7-under 65 at The American Express to take a one-stroke lead over first-round leader Brandon Hagy and four others.

Im, the 22-year-old South Korean who was the PGA Tour’s rookie of the year in 2019, had seven birdies in the bogey-free round on the Stadium Course at PGA West, highlighted by three in four holes around the turn.

Hagy was in position to join Im at 11 under, but he bogeyed his final hole with a tee shot into the fairway bunker to finish his 70.

Canada’s Nick Taylor (66), South Korea’s Si Woo Kim (68), Tony Finau (66) and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer (65) also were 10 under. Emiliano Grillo (66), Francesco Molinari (66) and Doug Ghim (68) were two shots off the lead.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Danielle Kang continued to sail along at the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, shooting a 6-under 65 to stretch her lead to two shots.

A five-time LPGA Tour winner ranked fifth in the world, Kang had a 13-under 129 total at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando. She has yet to make a bogey.

Nelly Korda, at No. 4 the top-ranked player in the 25-woman, winners-only field, was second after a 66.

In Gee Chun and defending champion Gaby Lopez were four strokes back at 9 under. Chun, a two-time major champion, matched Kang for the best score of the day with a 65. The South Korean player had a triple-bogey 7 on the sixth hole Thursday in an opening 68.

Lopez shot 68.

NFL

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears promoted safeties coach Sean Desai to replace retired defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

The longest-tenured member of the Bears’ coaching staff, Desai was hired as a quality control coach in 2013 under Marc Trestman. He worked with defensive backs and linebackers while also assisting on special teams through the 2018 season before being promoted to safeties coach.

Coach Matt Nagy called Desai “a person of high football intelligence” while announcing his promotion.