INGLEWOOD, CALF. — INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- With Magic Johnson cheering, instructing and exhorting them from the bench, the Los Angeles Lakers won their fourth game in a row last night, beating the Atlanta Hawks, 111-89.
Johnson returned to the Forum for the first time since his stunning retirement and was met by a thunderous standing ovation from his former Lakers teammates, the Hawks and the crowd of 16,750.
Johnson spent more time on his feet than sitting on the bench. He clapped and pointed when one of the Lakers made a good play and, at timeouts, he was right in the middle of things as the players huddled around coach Mike Dunleavy.
Throughout the game, Johnson gestured animatedly as he instructed his teammates and -- again like old times -- briefly lectured center Vlade Divac as Divac came out of the game for a rest.
There was a definite attempt on his part and the team's to keep his appearance as low key as possible. He did not speak to the media as he passed through the Lakers' locker room. He spoke to a few players, then disappeared through a back door. He passed through a group of television reporters as he got to the entranceway to the tunnel but, smiling, waved off their efforts to speak with him.
Johnson announced a week and a half ago that he was retiring from the NBA because he had tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS. The three-time MVP went on vacation with his wife after his announcement to get a respite from the worldwide attention.
A.C. Green scored 26 points and had nine rebounds for the Lakers, who staged a "Showtime" rally -- which Johnson used to lead -- to come back from a 10-point deficit in the second quarter. James Worthy added 20 points.
Dominique Wilkins led the Hawks with 24 points.
After walking onto the court after the pre-game introductions, Johnson took a seat on the Lakers bench. Dressed in a casual black suit, he acknowledged the ovation from the crowd with a huge smile and a wave of his hand, and slapped high fives with the Lakers.
Then, several of the Atlanta players, led by Wilkins, walked over to the Los Angeles bench and bear-hugged Johnson.
Johnson said earlier last night that he did not plan to talk to reporters after the game.
The Lakers rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the second quarter to take a 52-45 halftime lead.