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Woman suing 'Magic' Johnson for allegedly giving her HIV

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- A Michigan woman is suing Earvin 'Magic' Johnson for allegedly giving her the AIDS virus.

ABC News, which first reported the suit Thursday night on its 'PrimeTime Live' program, said Johnson, through his lawyer, admitted to having sex with the woman, but does not know whether he gave the virus to her, she gave it to him or neither.

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Johnson's lawyer, Howard L. Weitzman, told the Detroit News Johnson acknowledges he had sex with the woman but 'categorically denies' he knew at the time he was HIV positive and failed to inform her.

'The first he learned about it was in late October 1991. For all we know, she was the individual who infected him,' Weitzman told the newspaper.

The woman claims Johnson infected her with the AIDS virus when they had sex in June 1990. When the suit was filed last week, her lawyers persuaded a federal magistrate to issue a gag order to protect her identity. Several news organizations asked a federal judge Friday to lift that order.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Enslen in Kalamazoo late Friday lifted the seal covering the case, but said the woman's identity would remain secret for the time being. She had written a letter saying she did not want to be hounded, pleading that 'living with HIV is challenge enough. ' Attorneys said her name probably would soon become public knowledge and urged restraint by the news media.

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The plaintiff is from Lansing, Johnson's hometown, is currently unmarried and has a baby by another man, according to court documents. The suit does not specify how much money the woman is seeking from Johnson, whose net worth is estimated at $100 million.

Johnson has known the woman for a 'number of years,' Weitzman said.

'It's a very sad situation, but he does not believe he is responsible for her condition. We'll be defending the lawsuit vigorously,' he said.

Wietzman said neither the woman's baby nor the father have tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS. Likewise, Johnson's wife, Cookie, and their new baby also have tested negative.

'PrimeTime Live' disclosed the suit during a segment about Johnson that included the basketball superstar's first interview since he announced Monday his second retirement from the NBA.

Johnson originally left the Los Angeles Lakers in 1991 after revealing he had the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

Nonetheless, the star guard later played on the gold-medal-winning U. S. Olympic team in Barcelona, then said on Sept. 29 that he would attempt a professional comeback.

However, Johnson shocked the sports world Monday by unexpectedly revealing he would not play again after all.

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Thursday night, Johnson told 'PrimeTime Live' that seeing fear on the faces of fellow players when he cut himself during a preseason game fueled his decision to retire permanently.

Ever since Sept. 29, more and more NBA athletes had voiced concern about playing against Johnson.

'It is a physical game and you do get kicked and scratched,' said Utah Jazz star forward Karl Malone, who played alongside Johnson at Barcelona. 'I do have concerns, just like anybody would have. It's not a thing of kicking a man when he's down.'

Thursday night, Johnson told 'PrimeTime Live' that he felt upset -- but not bitter -- about such remarks.

'I don't hold grudges,' the athlete said. 'I don't sit here and think, 'That doggone Karl Malone.' I don't do that. That's wasted energy to me. What I do now is I just carry on. OK, it happened. I deal with it and keep going.'

Others did not feel so charitable.

Laker trainer Gary Vitti Thursday said he feared that since Johnson had been 'hounded' out of the NBA, players who tested positive for AIDS in the future might keep their status secret to protect their careers.

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If the Lansing woman wins her suit, other former sex partners of Johnson will likely sue the star, Weitzman said. Johnson has acknowledged having sex with numerous women during his legendary NBA career.

In the 'PrimeTime Live' interview, Johnson said he often tried to help women fulfill their personal sexual fantasies as well as his own.

'You ask me if I had fun. Yes, I had fun. Did you reach all your fantasies? Yes, I did -- but you pay for it,' he said.

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