Sports Briefs

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2001

49ers slip past Raiders

SAN FRANCISCO -- Wearing black on a bittersweet occasion, Jerry Rice gave his longtime fans one last thrill.

Rice, who set every significant NFL receiving record in 16 seasons with the 49ers, returned to 3Com Park on Sunday, starting for the Oakland Raiders in a 20-17 exhibition loss to San Francisco.

Rice caught just one pass and played only three series, but he still was the center of attention in a well-played Battle of the Bay.

Jonas Lewis rushed for an 8-yard TD with 13:11 left, and the 49ers' defense stopped the Raiders three times in the final minutes to seal the victory.

Not ready to retire at 38, Rice signed a two-year contract with the Raiders after the salary cap-strapped 49ers released him in June. His brief appearance highlighted a hotly contested game between the Bay area's sometimes bitter rivals.

''This actually felt like a regular season game,'' said Terrell Owens, who caught a 38-yard touchdown pass to upstage his mentor one more time.

Rafter takes RCA Championship finals

INDIANAPOLIS -- Gustavo Kuerten quit with a rib cage injury just 22 minutes into the RCA Championships final against Pat Rafter on Sunday -- the French Open winner's second match of the day.

Kuerten won his rain-postponed semifinal against Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 Sunday morning, then had only a one-hour break before getting back on court to face Rafter for the title.

It was the second straight week Kuerten was forced to play a semifinal and final on the same day. The Brazilian beat Tim Henman and then Rafter to win a tournament in Cincinnati last Sunday.

In Indianapolis, it was evident something was wrong with Kuerten almost as soon as he stepped on court to face Rafter.

He won just one point in the first two games.

Kuerten said he wasn't he wasn't sure exactly what the injury was, but it impeded his ability to serve and hit forehands.

Hernandez to return to rotation Tuesday

NEW YORK -- Orlando Hernandez will return to the New York Yankees' rotation Tuesday after missing 2 1/2 months with an injured toe.

Hernandez, on the disabled list since June 1, has been rehabilitating following surgery on the second toe of his left foot June 15. He pitched six shutout innings Thursday for Class-A Staten Island.

He threw 12 minutes in the bullpen Saturday and reported no problems, clearing the way for his return to the rotation Tuesday night in Texas.

''It makes us whole once again,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said Sunday. ''We started spring training with the expectation of having the four starters we now have. It's a big benefit to have his arm well-rested at this time.''

Hernandez was 0-5 with a 5.14 ERA in nine starts for the Yankees before going on the DL. He will join a staff that already includes Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte -- giving Torre a formidable postseason rotation.

''He'll lift the load off of them,'' Torre said. ''It's a big benefit for us.''

Hernandez has been instrumental to the Yankees' run of three straight World Series titles. He is 8-1 in the postseason during that time with a 2.20 ERA.

Hernandez will take the place of either rookie Ted Lilly, who has one win in his last 14 starts, or Sterling Hitchcock, who is still building up arm strength following elbow surgery last year.

Lilly's inexperience and his poor performance Saturday against Seattle make him the most likely candidate for demotion. He allowed seven runs -- five earned -- and six hits in 1 1-3 innings of a 7-6 loss to the Mariners. His record dropped to 3-6 and his ERA rose to 5.38.

Hitchcock is 2-2 with a 7.52 ERA in four starts since the Yankees acquired him from San Diego last month.

Torre said he would announce his decision on Monday.

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