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Vanessa Williams Monday gave up her crown as Miss...

NEW YORK -- Vanessa Williams Monday gave up her crown as Miss America, bowing to demands by pageant officials that she quit because she appeared nude in sexually explicit pictures in Penthouse magazine.

The magazine was selling at a torrid pace in New York City, with customers grabbing the first newsstand copies containing the pictures of a nude Miss Williams and another woman.

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The ballroom of the Sheraton Centre hotel where Miss Williams announced her decision was jammed with reporters and curious bypassers. Just outside, the Women Against Pornography, a national feminist organization, accused Penthouse magazine of subjecting Miss Williams to 'photographic rape.'

Also demonstrating on Miss Williams' behalf was a small group of models carrying posters saying, 'We're with you, Vanessa.' Nearby, a couple dozen teenagers stood with signs reading, 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'

Earlier in the day, Penthouse attorney Roy Grutman said he believed the 21-year-old beauty queen planned to sue the magazine. But Miss Williams made no reference to any legal action in her brief announcement.

She left the hotel quickly afterwards, refusing to take any questions.

In interviews published this weekend, Miss Williams said the pictures were 'confidential' and were never intended to be seen by the public.

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'(Penthouse publisher) Bob Guccione shouldn't have done it, but he sure knows how to sell magazines,' said Hazel Abrams at a Grand Central Terminal newsstand that sold 250 copies of the magazine in an hour Sunday and 500 more in a few minutes today.

'Every customer who comes to the stand buys one,' she said.

'It's amazing,' added Munawar Syed, manager of all the newsstands in Grand Central. 'I've never seen anything like this.' He said 2,500 copies were sold at the terminal during the rush hour and orders for more deliveries were made.

Pageant officials announced last week they wanted Miss Williams to give up her beauty queen title by today -- the first time in the history of the Miss America Pageant that a winner has been asked to step down.

'My daughter is a fighter ... She comes from fighting stock,' Helen Williams said Sunday outside the family's suburban home in Millwood, N.Y.

In an interview appearing today in The New York Times, Miss Williams said she posed nude for photographer Tom Chiaple in 1982 because 'I was curious.'

'I was 19. I had never done any modeling before,' she told the Times. 'But they were supposed to be confidential. They were never supposed to leave the studio, never to be published or seen by anyone but myself.'

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Of the sexually explict photos with another nude woman, Miss Williams said, 'It was not spontaneous ... Everything was orchestrated by him.'

Miss Williams also told the Times she realized the decision to pose nude had been 'a mistake,' but she had 'blanked it out of my mind.'

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