Barry Sanders makes his return to Detroit

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Barry Sanders makes his return to Detroit

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- The Motor City welcomed back Barry Sanders -- with a roar. The Hall of Fame running back was serenaded with "Bar-ry! Bar-ry!" chants by a handful of fans when he walked onto the turf at Ford Field about an hour before Detroit played Chicago on Monday night. After being on the field for the coin flip, the national anthem was delayed slightly because tens of thousands wouldn't stop chanting "Bar-ry! Bar-ry" just as they did at the Pontiac Silverdome. Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, five years after his retirement that left some Lions fans bitter in part because he walked away when he was one of his average seasons away from breaking Walter Payton's career rushing record. He had been booed by fans in the area, most notably at a Pistons game, but they seem to have moved on to hail him. "I think they're cool with me now from what I can tell," Sanders said before the game in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think we've all had a chance to reflect. I have mostly good memories about good times." Sanders was surrounded by fans in downtown Detroit, posed for pictures with security guards outside the stadium and was greeted by comic actor Tim Allen when he strolled down the tunnel toward the field. Sanders said he hasn't been to a Lions game in a couple of years and has attended about five since he retired. Sanders insisted he didn't blame fans in Detroit when they were upset with him years ago. "They're very passionate here about sports so they're going to have a very passionate reaction when you do something like I did," he said. Sanders recorded a Detroit-related introduction for "Monday Night Football" after ESPN pulled the "Are you ready for some football?" theme by Hank Williams Jr. He made an analogy that President Barack Obama and House Speaker Rep. John Boehner golfing together was like Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu playing a round. The network says the intro will change each week. "I just said some kind words about the town and the team with a script they gave me," Sanders said. "I enjoyed it and definitely considered it an honor to be a part of the overall buzz this team has created." The Lions won their first four games for the first time since 1980, nearly a decade before they drafted Sanders No. 3 overall out of Oklahoma State. "It's a lot of fun to see this success, getting a little taste of the fruits of what you can accomplish when you put it together on the field," Sanders said. "Hopefully they'll continue to learn how to win and to stay hungry. "To this point, though, this team has fulfilled all hopes and expectations." Sanders' alma mater might have a shot to land his son, Barry Sanders Jr., who the proud father said is also being recruited by Stanford, Florida State and Alabama. "BJ is a senior in high school down in Oklahoma City and he's looking around at colleges," said Sanders, who lives in the Detroit area with his wife and their three children. "I'm relatively involved, going to a few recruiting trips."

Zaza on All-Star vote spotlight: 'This is a special moment'

Zaza on All-Star vote spotlight: 'This is a special moment'

Zaza Pachulia was the People’s Choice. The Warriors center received 1,528,941 votes from fans eager to see him start in the NBA All-Star Game.

Pachulia in the final fan voting announced Thursday finished behind only teammate Kevin Durant among frontcourt players in the Western Conference. Zaza had more votes than Spurs star Kawhi Leonard (1,058,941) or Pelicans star Anthony Davis (974,802), both of whom will be starting for the West. 

With an extremely strong showing from voters in his native land, the Republic of Georgia, Pachulia finished precisely 613,068 votes ahead of Warriors teammate Draymond Green, who was an All-Star last season.

Yet Pachulia won’t join the All-Stars that flock to New Orleans from Feb. 16-19. The NBA prior to the season changed the voting procedure to ensure fans didn’t have complete control of the starting lineups.

Once the province of fan voting, the starting lineups are determined by a combination of fan voting (50 percent), player voting (25 percent) and media voting (25 percent). This way, a strong showing among fans hardly ensures a starting spot.

Some refer to this alteration as The Zaza Rule, as it was instituted Pachulia nearly made the team last season as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

And Pachulia is OK with that. He made it clear weeks ago, when his numbers were dwarfing those of players who have made multiple All-Star appearances, the most important aspect of the voting was not how he finished but the incredible support of his fellow Georgians.

“It’s such an overwhelming situation,” Pachulia said a couple weeks ago. “You’re not talking about a couple of thousand (votes). There’s hundreds of thousands. And with such a small country like Georgia, there are only 3.5 million people. The whole country’s involved in it.”

Pachulia, in fact, saw the humor in the matter. He knows his stats don’t compare to those of the league’s elite big men. He knows there is no single element of his game that the average fan would find irresistible.

He even knows he doesn’t belong in the NBA’s showcase game, with many of the players destined for the Hall of Fame.

“It’s just happening. All I can do is just sit back and enjoy and be thankful -- be really thankful -- for all of this,” Pachulia said. “Because I’m telling you, like you can get as mad as you want, you can be as happy as you want, but you can’t buy this. This is a special moment and I really appreciate the support. And that’s what I care about.

“I don’t care about being an All-Star, the fame that comes with it, the recognition that comes with it. I care about the support and the love I’m getting.”

Believe him. He’d prefer to enjoy the time with his family even more than he would have enjoyed the game itself.

Mayor Schaaf on Raiders relocation: 'Oakland has something no other city ever will'

Mayor Schaaf on Raiders relocation: 'Oakland has something no other city ever will'

The Oakland Raiders have officially filed for relocation to Las Vegas. And Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has responded. 

“It’s no surprise that the Raiders have filed for relocation," Schaaf said in a statement. "Oakland welcomes the chance to show them and the NFL’s other owners why Oakland is the only home for the Raiders and always will be.

“Our winning team of the Lott Group, the County and my colleagues on the Oakland City Council has accomplished so much in the last few months. We’ve identified the mechanisms to responsibly finance public infrastructure improvements, we have in the Lott Group a private partner prepared to finance stadium construction, and we have an entitled site for a world-class NFL stadium and new development that enhances fan experience while invigorating East Oakland's economy. 

“But this isn’t all Oakland has to offer. Oakland’s Raiders stadium will be on the most transit-accessible site in the nation, in the sixth largest television market, and in one of the wealthiest and most innovative regions in the world. But above all else, Oakland has something no other city ever will -- a die-hard fan base that is loyal and true to the Raiders and wants to see them stay here in Oakland where they were founded. Only Oakland brings the Raiders and the NFL a competitive stadium proposal, along with legacy and loyalty.

“I look forward to the League giving our team a chance to compete.”

Now that the fate of the Raiders' relocation is in the hands of the NFL owners, a vote could come at the NFL owners meetings in late March. It’s uncertain whether Davis has the votes needed to relocate, but there has been momentum building for such a move over the past several months.

Davis has said that, even if the Raiders are approved for relocation, he plans on playing in Oakland the next few years while a Las Vegas stadium is built. The team has already sent out season ticket pricing to fans for the 2017 season. The Raiders have one-year team options to play Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

The Las Vegas stadium isn’t expected to be ready until the 2020 season.

The Office of the Mayor Libby Schaaf and Scott Bair contributed to this report.