January 19, 2009|By FROM SUN NEWS SERVICES

Armstrong slow, steady in his first race back


Lance Armstrong made a cautious return to professional cycling yesterday, finishing 64th among 133 riders in a 30-mile criterium in Adelaide, Australia. More than 138,000 people watched Armstrong, 37, return from three years of retirement and begin a campaign to win his eighth Tour de France title. He stayed well back in a tight field throughout the race downtown on a winding circuit around leafy Rymill Park, following team instructions to avoid any chance of crashing. Armstrong will compete in the six-day Tour Down Under, which starts tomorrow. The criterium does not count toward Tour overall standings. "That was fun," Armstong said. "It felt good. I've been training a lot for this comeback and this race. It's good the first day is over, and now I can get into the racing." Australia's Robbie McEwen - a winner of 12 stages in the Tour de France - won the race for the Russian Team Katusha ahead of Willem Stroetinga of the Netherlands and fellow Australian Graeme Brown. Armstrong was ushered to the front of the field for the start of the race with another Tour de France winner, Oscar Perero of Spain, defending Tour Down Under champion Andre Greipel of Germany and Australian Stuart O'Grady. The seven-time Tour de France winner quickly settled into the middle of the peleton, avoiding any possibility of pileups on the tight corners of the one-mile circuit. "It's fun to get back into it," Armstrong said. "I found it a bit safer and easier in the back."

Stoudemire's 31 points lift Suns over Raptors


Amare Stoudemire scored 31 points, Steve Nash had a season-high 18 assists and the Phoenix Suns beat Toronto, 117-113, for their ninth consecutive victory over the struggling Raptors. Anthony Parker led Toronto with 26 points, Joey Graham scored a career-high 22 and Chris Bosh had 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors lost their fifth straight. Stoudemire's dunk with 3:18 left made it 114-109, but a put-back dunk by Jamario Moon and Parker's layup drew Toronto within a point. Parker missed a three-pointer from the top with 37 seconds left, and Nash converted a driving layup at the other end.

Heat 104, Thunder 94: : Dwyane Wade had 32 points and 10 assists to help Miami beat the Oklahoma City and finish 4-3 on its 12-day road trip. Yakhouba Diawara scored 14 points after starting in place of the injured Shawn Marion. Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 31 points.

Jazz: : Jerry Sloan will return as the coach for the 2009-10 season. The team said he has agreed to a one-year contract extension that will mark his 22nd season with Utah. Details of the contract were not available. Sloan is the longest-tenured coach in NBA history; he took over for former coach Frank Layden on Dec. 9, 1988.

Knicks:: Guard Stephon Marbury has again offered to give $1 million in salary back to the team as a way of renewing negotiations toward a buyout, the New York Post reported.

Z. Johnson shoots 65 to capture Sony Open


Zach Johnson won the Sony Open for his second victory in his past six starts on the PGA Tour, shooting a 5-under-par 65 to beat Adam Scott and David Toms by two shots in Honolulu. Johnson had a one-shot lead over Toms playing the par-5 18th, where he reached the green in two as Toms hit into a bunker. Tadd Fujikawa, the 18-year-old from Honolulu trying to become the youngest winner in tour history, started the final round two shots out of the lead but struggled to a 73 and tied for 32nd.

Champions Skins Game: : Fuzzy Zoeller successfully defended his title with new partner Ben Crenshaw, taking a dozen skins and $500,000 on the back nine to beat first-day leaders Greg Norman and Jay Haas in Kaanapali, Hawaii. Zoeller and Crenshaw finished the alternate-shot event with 13 skins and a record $530,000.

Report: Zetterberg, Wings close on deal

et cetera

Center Henrik Zetterberg and the Detroit Red Wings are closing in on a deal for possibly as long as 10 years, designed to keep the salary cap hit around $7 million a season, the Detroit Free Press reported. The team wants to get the contract signed by the March 4 trade deadline. The Wings are wary of how the current economic climate will affect the salary cap. "We've made progress in the last two weeks," general manager Ken Holland said. "There's still a little work to be done, but I'm optimistic." Zetterberg, 28, produced 43 goals and 49 assists last season.

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