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SPORTS WATCH : Class Act Is Back

Last night, before a sold-out crowd at the Great Western Forum, Earvin “Magic” Johnson returned to the hardwood for the Los Angeles Lakers.

This comeback, after fits and starts, is a boost for professional basketball, in Los Angeles and elsewhere, and it’s also a sign of greater public understanding about the virus that causes AIDS.

In 1991, the perennial all-star stunned the nation when he announced at 32 that he had tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and would leave the game in which he had few peers. But instead of stepping into the shadows, Johnson demonstrated he could be as proficient as an AIDS educator as he had been at directing Laker fast breaks. In “retirement,” Johnson served on the National AIDS Commission, helped write a book titled “What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS.” He also found time to start a highly successful movie theater complex.

Johnson was always looking to return to the court however. In 1992, he was part of the Dream Team that won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona. He was elected an NBA All-Star even though retired, and was selected MVP of the all-star game. But a brief comeback bid was cut short after some players expressed fear of contracting the HIV infection through physical contact. Times have changed.

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With courage and perseverance, Magic Johnson has helped put a human face on HIV. His example dispels the myths about how the virus spreads. That is apparent in his return to the playing floor.

He’s back in the game, and an inspiration to his fans.


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