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National Sports Briefs: Richardson’s sons leave Panthers

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE ó The two sons of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson resigned from high-ranking jobs in the organization Tuesday, an unexpected shake-up in one of the NFL’s most stable and successful franchises.
Team president Mark Richardson and Bank of America Stadium head Jon Richardson announced their decisions in a written statement. They were expected to eventually take over the team from their 73-year-old father, whose role has been limited since a February heart transplant.
The two men didn’t give a reason for leaving and the resignations take effect immediately. Both will remain members of the ownership group, but left unclear is who will assume their management roles and run the franchise in the future.
When asked if the franchise would be put up for sale, team spokesman Charlie Dayton said “absolutely not.”
Jerry Richardson told several members of the ownership group of the moves Tuesday morning. He later said in a statement that Mark and Jon “made great contributions to the stadium and the team that have enabled us to enjoy much success over the last 15 years. At the same time, I am thankful that we have a staff that has been in place for many years and knows our philosophy.”
– CHARLOTTE ó The Carolina Panthers addressed their biggest need Tuesday by acquiring defensive tackle Louis Leonard from the Cleveland Browns for a 2010 late-round draft pick.
The Panthers were left with a hole on the defensive line after starter Maake Kemoeatu, Carolina’s top run-stuffer, ruptured his Achilles’ tendon less than 30 minutes into the first practice of training camp.
While Carolina may still look to get more help at the position, the 6-foot-4, 325-pound Leonard could contend for the starting job. Leonard played all 16 games for the Browns last season, including four starts, and had 31 tackles.
– ST. LOUIS ó The St. Louis Rams cut ties to their top two picks from the 2006 draft on Tuesday, trading cornerback Tye Hill to the Atlanta Falcons for an undisclosed draft pick.
Hill missed 20 games the past two seasons, including the last 12 game of 2008 with a knee injury.
U.S. OPEN
NEW YORKó Maria Sharapova has advanced to the second round of the U.S. Open with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.
In her return to Flushing Meadows after missing last year with a shoulder injury, Sharapova hit 29 winners to only six for Pironkova in an easy win Tuesday night.
The 29th-seeded Russian is seeking her second U.S. Open and fourth Grand Slam title.
As she often does, Sharapova made as big a statement with her play as her tennis wear ó a black dress with silver straps and a matching silver headband.
Meanwhile, Dinara Safina has barely avoided becoming the first No. 1-seeded woman to lose in the first round. Safina overcame 11 double-faults and 48 unforced errors to come back and beat 167th-ranked Olivia Rogowska of Australia 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4 Tuesday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
NBA
MINNEAPOLIS ó Timberwolves president David Kahn says Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio has backed out of a deal to play in Minnesota this season.
Kahn says the Wolves negotiated a deal on Saturday night with Rubio’s Spanish pro team and agent Dan Fegan to bring the 18-year-old to Minnesota this fall.
But Rubio informed Kahn on Monday night that he would prefer to stay in his homeland for two more years to better prepare himself for the NBA.
– SOMERVILLE, N.J. ó Attorneys for Jayson Williams say the retired NBA star’s convictions related to a fatal shooting should be thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct.
GOLF
NORTON, Mass. ó Jack Nicklaus has said all along he would never become a ceremonial player, and just because he will be on the first tee at Augusta National next April doesn’t change that.
Nicklaus agreed to join Arnold Palmer as honorary ó not ceremonial ó starters at the Masters.
Nicklaus already was reaching ceremonial status in 2005 when he played his last Masters without telling anyone. Then, he played his final major in the British Open at St. Andrews.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
SOUTH BEND, Ind. ó A new billboard facing the Notre Dame campus offers a not-so-subtle reminder to coach Charlie Weis that the past two seasons have not been up to the standards of the storied Fighting Irish football program.
It reads: “Best wishes to Charlie Weis in the fifth year of his college coaching internship.” The ad is signed by “Linebacker Alumni,” a reference to a bar near the base of the billboard.
Weis said Tuesday he had not yet seen the billboard, about a half mile from his office, but had been told about it. He said it made him chuckle.
“Everything was great until the last word,” he said, laughing. “So tell them thanks a lot for wishing me best wishes.”

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