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Dec. 23, 2012 at 11:16 PM
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Ex-Reds player Ryan Freel dead in suicide

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Former Major League Baseball player Ryan Freel has been found dead in his Jacksonville, Fla., home in an apparent suicide, police say.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Freel, 36, a former outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds, died Saturday of a self-inflicted shotgun wound, The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union reported.

Sgt. Mike Paul told the newspaper the death wasn't being treated as suspicious.

Freel was drafted by the Blue Jays in 1995 and played nine games with the team before being obtained by the Reds, for whom be played six seasons.

The Jacksonville native finished an eight-year career with a .268 batting average, 22 home runs and 122 RBI over 594 games.

Renowned for his enthusiasm, he won the Reds Heart and Hustle Award in 2007.

"The Reds family is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Freel," the team said in a statement released Sunday. "His teammates and our fans loved him for how hard he played the game, and he loved giving back to the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

British newspaper sues Lance Armstrong

LONDON, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Disgraced former American cycling champion Lance Armstrong has been hit with suit from a British newspaper for damages he had won in a libel settlement.

Armstrong, who this year was slapped with a lifetime ban and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping violations, has been named in a $1.6 million suit brought by The Sunday Times of London, the BBC reported Sunday.

In the suit, the newspaper is demanding Armstrong return a $485,000 settlement he obtained in 2006 after suing The Sunday Times for libel following the publication of stories alleging he had used banned performance-enhancing drugs.

The Sunday Times is also demanding he pay for its legal costs and interest, the BBC said.

The newspaper first reported allegations involving Armstrong and doping in 1999.

Armstrong has always denied he has taken banned substances, but has not contested the the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's findings that he led a sophisticated program to use PEDs and evade their detection.

Indians sign Nick Swisher to 4-year deal

CLEVELAND, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Free agent outfielder and Ohio native Nick Swisher has agreed to a four-year contract with the Cleveland Indians, the team announced Sunday.

Terms of the deal weren't announced, but the New York Daily News reported it was worth $56 million with a vesting option for 2017 at $14 million that could bring the total $70 million.

Swisher, who has spent the last four seasons with the New York Yankees, was born in Columbus, Ohio, and attended Ohio State University.

"Wow! What a crazy few weeks," Swisher said Sunday via Twitter. "Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I'm coming home!"

Swisher, 32, batted .272 with 24 homers and 93 runs batted in last season.

His final season in New York was marked by fan unhappiness over his 5-for-30 performance in eight 2012 playoff games and his .162 batting average in 36 postseason contests for the Yankees.

He has compiled a .256 average with 209 homers and 673 RBI in 1,209 games with Oakland, Chicago White Sox and the Yankees over nine seasons.

Cincinnati Bengals reach playoffs with win

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Josh Brown's 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining Sunday boosted the Cincinnati Bengals into the playoffs with a 13-10 victory over Pittsburgh.

Brown's boot came after Bengals safety Reggie Nelson intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass with 14 seconds remaining in regulation and Andy Dalton moved Cincinnati into field goal range with a 21-yard completion to A.J. Green.

With the victory, the Bengals (9-6) made the playoffs for a second straight season for the first time since 1981-82.

The Steelers (7-8), however, were knocked out of playoff contention with their third straight loss and fifth in six games.

Roethlisberger finished just 14-of-28 through the air for 220 yards and one touchdown but was picked off twice -- including one interception that was returned for a touchdown by Leon Hall.

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