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Sports briefs: Louisville-Virginia game postponed

Associated Press

Louisville has paused all football activities and its Saturday game at Virginia has been postponed at least a week due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Nine Louisville players, mostly on defense, were held out of last week’s 42-35 loss to Virginia Tech. Coach Scott Satterfield said afterward that some of the absences were COVID-19-related.

“We are taking a precautionary measure to pause due the number of student-athletes and staff that have been impacted by the virus,” Tyra said in a statement. “With Virginia and us both having a bye week on November 14, we are fortunate to reschedule the game for that date. It also avails us a chance to gauge any further spread of the virus. Test results from both Friday and Sunday will dictate when we return to team activities. We appreciate the ACC and Virginia working with us at this time.”

Missing players dominate Packers-49ers rematch tonight

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — When the San Francisco 49ers dealt Green Bay a humiliating loss last November, it was Nick Bosa controlling the line of scrimmage and George Kittle and Deebo Samuel catching long TD passes from Jimmy Garoppolo.

When the teams met again two months later in the NFC title game, the Niners won behind 229 yards rushing and four TDs from Raheem Mostert.

When they face off at Levi’s Stadium for the third time in less than a year tonight, the Niners (4-4) will look nothing like that juggernaut that dealt the Packers (5-2) two lopsided losses. A spate of injuries has derailed the defending NFC champions.

“It makes things more of a challenge,” coach Kyle Shanahan said.

The Niners have been decimated by injuries this season, with Garoppolo and Kittle the latest to go down this week. San Francisco will also be without Mostert, Samuel, Bosa and Richard Sherman among others. Receiver Kendrick Bourne then tested positive for the coronavirus, meaning no player who gained a yard on offense for San Francisco in those two games in which the 49ers outscored the Packers 74-28 will play tonight.

Voters in three states back legalizing sports betting

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The U.S. gambling industry won big at the polls Tuesday, with three states authorizing legal sports betting and three others either approving or expanding casino gambling.

Maryland, South Dakota and Louisiana approved sports betting. B the end of next year, more than half the country could have legal sports betting, less than three years after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for all 50 states to adopt it if they chose. Virginia approved casino gambling in four locations, Nebraska authorized adding casino games at its horse racing tracks and Colorado expanded the number and type of casino games it can offer, along with eliminating some wagering limits.

  Sports betting will become legal in Louisiana parishes that approved the measure; over three-quarters appeared to have done so.

Kyle Larson makes return trip to racing school for minorities

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jysir Fisher was whisked into victory lane at Dover for a whirlwind of hugs and high-fives with race winner Kyle Larson. Fisher never really watched NASCAR and had no idea who Larson was when they were seated only days earlier at the same table at an awards banquet for a youth racing school.

The two formed an  instant bond. Larson used his Chevrolet connections to get Fisher into the race, and three nights after they met, the driver won his only NASCAR race of the 2019 season.

“He’s like the real-deal racer,” Fisher said he thought of Larson.

The next time Fisher and Larson spoke face to face, the topic would have seemed inconceivable at that October ceremony for the Urban Youth Racing School. The school was started in 1998 with a bold plan to take kids from the inner city to the inner circle of stock car racing. It was hatched by Philly native Anthony Martin, who left a sports marketing career to pursue his love of racing and mix it with a dream of introducing inner-city kids to NASCAR.

Larson, an advocate for the Philly-based program that creates opportunities in racing for minorities, was caught  using a slur during an iRacing event in April. Larson lost his NASCAR ride, his sponsor, his multimillion-dollar contract — and perhaps shattered his reputation with the kids and the school where he stood as a role model. That’s what led Larson back to the school, where he met with students, their families and instructors to have conversations about the hurt he caused. The 28-year-old Larson wanted to apologize.

“I didn’t want to make any assumptions before I actually heard the story from him,” Fisher said.

Fisher said Larson was sincere in his apology and realized the pain he caused.

The 18-year-old Fisher believed it was an “honest mistake” and forgave Larson for the slur.  They’ve become texting buddies since, and Fisher was sure to congratulate Larson when he landed his 2021 NASCAR ride with Hendrick Motorsports.

Dustin Johnson trying to play catch-up at Houston Open

HOUSTON (AP) — A six-week break going into the Masters was not what Dustin Johnson had in mind. He wasn’t expecting to test positive for the coronavirus, either, and still wonders how it happened.

Johnson did find one positive to being the most prominent golfer to recover from COVID-19. Under CDC guidelines followed by the PGA Tour, he won’t have to be tested for three months.

“I know I’m playing next week at the Masters,” Johnson said Wednesday, adding that he would be “nervous for sure” if he had to wait for the test results before setting foot on Augusta National.

“I had no idea where I got it from,” he said. “I thought about it and tried to figure it out. I had every person that I had been around … every single one of them got tests. Not one person had it.”

He was among those who finished one shot behind Tiger Woods last year at the Masters. Johnson was coming off a strong run of being runner-up at the PGA Championship, winning by 11 shots at the TPC Boston, losing to a 65-foot birdie putt in a playoff at Olympia Fields and winning the FedEx Cup. He then tied for sixth in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot on Sept. 20.

That was his last competition until he tees off today. Johnson is among 37 players at the Houston Open who are playing in the Masters — assuming they pass their tests for the coronavirus — while eight Masters champions are playing on the PGA Tour Champions in Phoenix.

Also playing in Houston this week are Brooks Koepka for only the second time since August because of injuries, Jordan Spieth and Tyrrell Hatton of England, who has risen to No. 10 in the world.

For Johnson, it’s a matter of playing catch-up.

“My health is good,” he said. “The state of my game is undetermined.”

He went two weeks from testing positive for the virus before he picked up a club again, which was a week ago Monday, and even that session didn’t last very long because he had been away from golf for two weeks. That’s rare for someone trying to get his game in top form for the Masters.

Being isolated in Las Vegas sounded as if it were tougher than recovering from COVID-19.

“It wasn’t that bad as far as I didn’t get really sick,” he said. “I felt like I had a cold for a few days so I was pretty much asymptomatic — a little fatigue and things like that, but I couldn’t really figure out if that was because I was stuck in a hotel room for 11 days not doing anything or it was COVID that made me feel that way.

“I didn’t leave the room for 11 days,” he said. “It was one of those things, too, I was like waiting to get sick because you know you have it, and you’re sitting there. But for me, it was mild and I’m very thankful for that. … Yeah, I had a lot more time off than I was planning on.”

Johnson managed to keep his No. 1 ranking, just barely, and he now joins Woods, Greg Norman and Rory McIlroy as the only players to have been at the top of the ranking for 100 weeks or more.

He is used to that by now. What means far more is adding to his lone major title from the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Consider this week a crash course to get ready for Augusta.

“If I hit a couple good shots, I’ll be happy,” Johnson said. “It’s more about just getting some reps and playing and practicing and getting ready for next week. Obviously, I’ve had way more time off than I wanted coming into Augusta.”

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