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Sports briefs, Jan. 26

From wire reports

NJ camel predicts Giants will win the Super Bowl

LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. — People use all sorts of ways to try to predict the winner of the Super Bowl: comparing regular season records, judging who looked stronger in the post-season run-up to the big game, or watching the betting lines from Las Vegas oddsmakers.

But the closest thing to a sure thing may come from a camel in New Jersey.

Princess, the star of New Jersey’s Popcorn Park Zoo, has correctly picked the winner of five of the last six Super Bowls. She went 14 and 6 predicting regular season and playoff games this year, and has a lifetime record of 88-51.

Her pick this year: The New York Giants.

The Bactrian camel’s prognostication skills flow from her love of graham crackers. Zoo general manager John Bergmann places a cracker and writes the name of the competing teams on each hand. Whichever hand Princess nibbles from is her pick. On Wednesday, she made her pick with no hesitation at all, predicting bad news for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, even though the Las Vegas oddsmakers have New England favored by about 3 points.

Her only miscue in the big game was picking the Indianapolis Colts over the New Orleans Saints two years ago, indicating that even camels know it’s generally risky to go against Peyton Manning.

Judge tosses verdict against New Hampshire track

CONCORD, N.H. — A judge has thrown out a verdict that would have required New Hampshire Motor Speedway to pay nearly $1 million to cancel its contract with Motor Racing Network.

A jury awarded MRN $993,724 last September because New Hampshire did not meet a three-year notice of termination when Speedway Motorsports Inc. bought the track in 2008. SMI wanted its radio network — the Performance Racing Network — to broadcast NASCAR events at the track.

New Hampshire Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara presided over the trial, but threw out the verdict in a Wednesday ruling.

McNamara wrote the jury based its award on MRN’s projected lost profits, and that can’t be a basis for damages.

International Speedway Corp., which owns MRN, said in a statement it will appeal the ruling.

Poll shows dropping support for Paterno firing

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Support for the decision by Penn State trustees to fire the late Joe Paterno is falling, according to a national poll released Thursday.

The Seton Hall Sports Poll indicated that 42 percent of respondents support the football coach’s firing, down from 55 percent in November.

Forty percent said he should have been allowed to retire after decades as coach, up from 31 percent in November.

Nearly two-thirds said Paterno’s legacy has been tarnished, while about 18 percent did not think so.

The poll also asked which news story people were paying most attention to. The economy was first, at 40 percent; followed by the Republican race for the presidential nomination, 32 percent; the Super Bowl, 17 percent; and problems in the Middle East, 6 percent.

Trustees fired Paterno in November, citing his failure to go to police after getting a graduate assistant’s eyewitness account of alleged child sex abuse by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in the football team showers.

RPM forms Nationwide team for Michael Annett

CONCORD, N.C. — Richard Petty Motorsports has formed a Nationwide Series team for Michael Annett. His car will be sponsored by Pilot Flying J and will run for the Nationwide championship.

Annett spent last season with Rusty Wallace, Inc. He had 13 top-10 finishes and was ninth in the final championship standings. RWI announced earlier this month it does not have the sponsorship to race this season.

RPM fields cars in the elite Sprint Cup Series for Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose.

Annett began racing in the ARCA Series in 2007 and won at Talladega in only his fourth start. He moved to the Nationwide Series in 2009 with Germain Racing and spent two seasons there before joining RWI.

Good work for Nowitzki, who hopes to play Sunday

DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki says he’s had a good week of work and is shooting to return to the Dallas Mavericks’ lineup Sunday.

Nowitzki spoke to reporters after practice Thursday, one day before the star forward will miss his fourth straight game as part of a planned hiatus to strengthen his sore right knee.

Coach Rick Carlisle said last weekend that last season’s NBA finals MVP needed some extra time to strengthen his knee and get in better game shape. Carlisle said then that Nowtizki would be out at least four games.

The coach says Nowitzki has made progress, though Carlisle isn’t guaranteeing Nowitzki will play Sunday against San Antonio, the last of four consecutive home games.

Dallas is home against Utah on Friday night.

Outfielder Jonny Gomes and A’s finalize $1M deal

OAKLAND, Calif. — Jonny Gomes takes pride in his versatility. He can play the corner outfield, and he’s an experienced designated hitter.

That certainly will be helpful for Oakland manager Bob Melvin with a young roster.

The A’s and Gomes finalized a $1 million, one-year contract Thursday after reaching a preliminary agreement last week. He will bring a veteran presence as well as key depth.

Gomes already has a nice fan base in the Bay Area. He grew up in nearby Petaluma, where he is loved.

“Everybody’s really excited. It’s kind of ironic telling the family … starting my pro career in Tampa, it’s about as far away you can get from home, people say, ‘Oh, you do play,'” Gomes said. “I’m getting tons of positive feedback.”

The 31-year-old hit .209 with 14 home runs and 43 RBIs last year for Cincinnati and Washington in his ninth major league season. He will provide outfield depth for the rebuilding A’s, who haven’t had a winning record or made the playoffs since being swept in the 2006 AL championship series by Detroit.

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