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Dolphin flip

Sports | Faced with repaying the Dolphins $8.6 million, Ricky Williams appears ready to return to Miami

Issue: "Terrorism: Unmasked men," Oct. 16, 2004

Ricky Williams's sudden retirement now looks simply like a vacation. A few days after an arbitrator said Mr. Williams would have to repay the Miami Dolphins more than $8.6 million for breaching his contract, the pariah running back asked the NFL to clarify his playing status in light of positive drug tests. This means the former Heisman Trophy running back could be back on the field soon, or at least serving a drug suspension.

After the 27-year-old Mr. Williams retired from professional football in late July, he revealed he had tested positive for marijuana three times during league drug tests. He even said his desire to continue smoking marijuana played a role in his decision to retire. But by forcing him to face a bill of debt, the Dolphins forced Mr. Williams's hand. Now that he apparently is seeking a comeback, how willing will the Dolphins be to take back their former star running back?

True enough, Miami's 0-4 start to the season was its worst since 1966, and the current Dolphins starter is former seventh-round draft pick Leonard Henry. But Mr. Williams's falling out with the Miami organization that rescued him out of New Orleans lacked grace. At the time, Mr. Williams complained that the Miami offensive coaches were abusing him. The running back's one-time teammates labeled him something short of a traitor.

Yellow fever

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There's one race Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong won't win this year--the race against demand. This summer, Mr. Armstrong didn't just become a six-time Tour champion, but also a fashion icon. From junior high students, to Olympic athletes, to presidential candidates--and even NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw--everyone seems to be wearing Lance Armstrong's little yellow wristband. Dubbed Livestrongs, each yellow wristband sold--often in bulk--generates one dollar for the cyclist's Lance Armstrong Foundation, a cancer research charity.

But now that the wristband has reached fad status (about 100,000 are sold daily on the foundation's website), the creators are having trouble keeping up. The rubber bracelets are produced in a single Chinese factory. With unexpected demand and shipping time, the Livestrong is backordered by up to five weeks. The cyclist's charity has even hired a cadre of customer-service representatives to work through a backlog of thousands of unanswered e-mails.

Persistent shoppers thwarted by long delays can still find the wristbands at online auction websites like eBay. Fashionistas will pay, though: Sellers can get up to $10 for a single yellow wristband. But in e-mail replies, the Lance Armstrong Foundation reminds would-be customers that money from auction sales only benefits the seller, not cancer research.

Around the Horn

  • Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can really hurt in NASCAR's point race. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s casual usage of a four-letter word spurred NASCAR to fine him $10,000 and deduct 25 points from his Nextel Cup total. The penalty for cursing on live television pushed Mr. Earnhardt out of the point-race lead and into second place. The driver planned to appeal the penalties: "If anybody was offended by the four-letter word I said . . . I can't imagine why they would have tuned into the race in the first place."
  • The NBA will lack at least one familiar face this season. Scottie Pippen, who made his career playing a supporting role to Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan, announced his retirement on Oct. 5. Mr. Pippen played 17 years in the league, including an injury-riddled swan song with Chicago last season where he only managed to appear in 23 games.
  • Finally, good news for Tiger Woods: He's married. Bad news: The wedding cost $1.5 million, according to reports. Though the father of the bride said they wanted "to keep this as a family thing," superstar friends Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Oprah Winfrey attended. Tiger Woods's wedding singer: Hootie and the Blowfish.

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