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Wednesday Sports in Brief

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MLB

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox insist they won the 2018 World Series fairly, even as they begin their search for a new manager after Alex Cora was let go for his role in a sign-stealing scandal.

Cora left the team on Tuesday after baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred identified him as the ringleader in a cheating scheme with the 2017 Houston Astros. Cora took over in Boston the next year, leading the team to a franchise-record 108 victories and the World Series title.

Major League Baseball is investigating whether Cora set up a similar cheating system in Boston. No conclusions have been reached, the team said.

“We would ask that everyone to reserve judgment until MLB completes its investigation and determines whether rules were violated,” owner John Henry said. “I can tell you that we are working with baseball to the fullest extent possible.”

Henry said Cora agreed to step down because the two sides agreed that he could not continue to lead the team.

NFL

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth attempt.

Tagliabue and former New York Giants general manager George Young made it to the hall in Canton, Ohio, as contributors. Ex-Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris and former Cleveland receiver Mac Speedie completed the centennial class announced Wednesday. The class of 10 senior candidates, three contributors and two coaches are part of the hall’s celebration of the NFL’s 100th season.

Safety Donnie Shell made it, as did fellow safety Bobby Dillon and defensive tackle Alex Karras. Also, Duke Slater, one of the NFL’s first black players, defensive standout Ed Sprinkle and NFL Films pioneer Steve Sabol were announced. So were wide receiver Harold Carmichael and offensive tackles Winston Hill and Jim Covert.

Over the weekend, the election of coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson as part of the special class celebrating the NFL’s 100th season was revealed. Four more 2020 members are upcoming.

TEMPE, Arizona (AP) — Star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is returning to the Arizona Cardinals for the 2020 season.

The team announced Wednesday the 36-year-old Fitzgerald signed a one-year contract.

In 16 seasons with Arizona, Fitzgerald is the Cardinals’ franchise leader in games played (250), receptions (1,378), receiving yards (17,083), receiving touchdowns (120), total touchdowns (120) and 100-yard games (49). His 1,378 career receptions are the most by any player in NFL history with a single team.

He ranks second all time behind Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (1,549). Fitzgerald’s 17,083 career receiving yards also rank second in NFL history, while his 120 career touchdown receptions are sixth.

NHL

Gerard Gallant was abruptly fired by the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday less than two years after leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season of existence and winning NHL coach of the year honors along the way.

Peter DeBoer, fired last month by the San Jose Sharks, takes over immediately and will be the Vegas coach the rest of the season.

General manager Kelly McCrimmon announced the change in the aftermath of a 4-2 loss to Buffalo on Tuesday night that dropped Vegas out of a playoff position in the Western Conference. The Golden Knights have lost four in a row, matching the longest point drought in their brief franchise history.

Gallant won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year for his role in helping the Golden Knights reach the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in five games to Washington. They also made the playoffs last season before losing in seven games in the first round to DeBoer’s Sharks.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Kira Lewis Jr. scored 25 points and Alabama handed No. 4 Auburn its first loss of the season with an 83-64 rout on Wednesday night.

The Crimson Tide (9-7, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) led wire-to-wire over their in-state rival. The Tigers (15-1, 3-1) had a miserable shooting night and left No. 7 San Diego State (18-0) as the nation’s last unbeaten team.

It was the Tide’s first win over a Top 5 team since a 79-57 home defeat of then-No. 5 Texas A&M on Dec. 30, 2017. This one was largely one-sided, too.

It was a season low in points for Auburn, which had won 27 of 28 games dating back to last season’s Final Four run.

NBA

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Zion Williamson, the top choice in last summer’s NBA draft, is scheduled to make his regular season debut for the Pelicans on Jan. 22 when New Orleans hosts the the San Antonio Spurs, Pelicans basketball operations chief David Griffin said Wednesday.

The former Duke star has missed New Orleans’ first 41 games this season while rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee. The timeline set for his return calls for him to miss three more games, starting with Thursday night’s home game against Utah.

New Orleans also hosts the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday and visit Memphis on Monday.

Griffin also indicated that Williamson’s minutes will be closely monitored and likely limited for the time being.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Dynamic running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, receiver Justin Jefferson and safety Grant Delpit are among seven players from LSU’s national championship team who’ve stated their intention to enter the NFL draft.

Offensive linemen Saahdiq Charles and Lloyd Cushnberry, and linebackers Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips also announced their intention to turn pro Wednesday.

AUTO RACING

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske announced Wednesday that this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race will be run on the track’s road course for the first time.

The Cup Series race, scheduled for July 5, will remain on the track’s 2 1/2-mile oval.

The decision was approved by series officials and welcomed by NBC, which will broadcast both races on its primary network.

Penske purchased the track late last year and closed the deal earlier this month. This is the first major change the longtime IndyCar and NASCAR team owner has made.

Race organizers said the plan is to hold the Xfinity race July 4, then convert the track back to its original oval format. Cup drivers will then hold one or two practices that day, which will have concerts and a holiday fireworks display after the cars head to Gasoline Alley.

Qualifying for the Cup race will be held July 5 with the race scheduled later that day.

TENNIS

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Serena Williams will be part of the U.S. team for its Fed Cup qualifier against Latvia, the U.S. Tennis Association said Wednesday.

It will be the first time Williams has participated in the Fed Cup since 2018. Williams has played in 10 previous Fed Cup competitions, and is 13-0 in singles and 3-2 in doubles since her first appearance in 1999.

The U.S. will face Latvia on Feb. 7-8 in Everett, Washington. The winner will advance to the Fed Cup finals in April in Budapest, Hungary. The U.S. must finalize the rest of its roster by Jan. 28.

SOCCER

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dutch goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer has agreed to join Los Angeles FC.

The MLS club announced the deal Wednesday to acquire the 34-year-old Vermeer, who has spent nearly all of his professional career in the domestic Eredivisie.

LAFC used targeted allocation money to sign Vermeer, who spent the past six seasons with Feyenoord.

He spent the previous decade with Ajax, winning four consecutive league titles and appearing in 13 Champions League matches. Vermeer also made five international appearances for the Netherlands from 2012-15.

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Alex de Minaur withdrew on Thursday from the Australian Open due to an abdominal strain.

The same injury also forced the 20-year-old Australian to pull out of the Adelaide International on Monday. He was the top-seeded player in that tournament.

De Minaur had been playing well heading into the Australian Open, winning two singles for Australia at the ATP Cup tournament last week and taking Rafael Nadal to three sets.

De Minaur was to have been seeded No. 20 at the Australian Open that begins Monday at Melbourne Park.

OBITUARY

Rocky “Soulman” Johnson, a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler who became better known as the father of actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has died. He was 75.

WWE issued a statement on Johnson’s death Wednesday night. Johnson and Tony Atlas became the first black world tag team champions in WWE history when they defeated The Wild Samoans on Dec. 10, 1983.

The statement didn’t provide details on the cause or location of Johnson’s death.

Johnson later helped train his son, who adopted the Rocky moniker from his father. Johnson came to his son’s aid after a match at WrestleMania in 1997. The Rock inducted his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.

Former professional wrestler Brian Blair, another 1980s WWE star, was friends with Johnson for decades and they still went to church together in the Tampa, Florida area. Blair told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Johnson had complained of an unspecified illness of late

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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