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Jersey hotdog gobbler wins back title

NEW YORK -- Hotdog chompin' champ Mike Devito won back his title Sunday at Coney Island's 77th annual Fourth of July hotdog eating contest by cramming down 17 of the tube steaks in 12 minutes.

Devito, of Manalapan, N.J., who works for a brokerage firm on Wall Street, is is touted as the 'thinking man's hotdog eater.'

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The contest has been held at Nathan's Famous since 1916. Eighteen men and two women, known in their branch of competition as 'gustatory gladiators,' lined up behind a table heaped with steaming hot dogs in buns, waiting for the signal to grab and gobble as many as they could in the dozen minutes alloted.

Cheered on by a crowd of holiday revelers, the 30-year-old Devito easily outchewed them all. His eyes closed, concentrating intensely, Dellarosa fed the dogs into his steadily munching mouth with both hands.

Joe Gotay of Brooklyn placed second with 14 and a half dogs. Willie Dykstra, also of Brooklyn, won first place in the women's category, eating seven and a half.

The reigning champion, Brooklyn's Frank Dellarosa, who had hoped to make it three wins in a row, canceled out at the last minute due to a family emergency. The 290-pound Dellarosa holds the all-time record of 21 and a half hotdogs in 1991.

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Devito, who was champ in 1990, is also New Jersey hotdog eating title holder, having gobbled down 17 wieners to beat out 49 competitors June 26.

His prize Sunday: 365 of Nathan's finest hotdogs.

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