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Jan. 22, 2013 at 5:15 PM
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NFL reinstates Sean Payton as Saints coach

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Sean Payton was reinstated, effective immediately, as head coach of the New Orleans Saints, the National Football League announced Tuesday.

Payton is free to rejoin the team after his suspension for the entire 2012 season for league violations, and can attend any post-season college all-star games, including this week's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.

Payton "pledged to uphold the highest standards of the NFL and ensure that his staff and players do so as well," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

Goodell and Payton met Monday, and both parties were satisfied by the outcome, the newspaper said.

"I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations. I have assured the Commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed," Payton said Tuesday in a statement released by the Saints.

The league suspended Payton and several other Saints coaches and players after determining the team operated a bounty system in which players were paid bonuses for inflicting injuries on opposing players.

The Saints announced this month they had signed Payton to a new five-year contract.

Wes Welker's wife: Ray Lewis blast wrong

FOXBOROUGH, Mass., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Anna Welker, wife of New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker, said derogatory comments she made about Ray Lewis of the Ravens were "irrational."

Anna Welker apologized for her Facebook blast at the Baltimore linebacker, posted immediately after the Patriots lost the AFC Championship game to the Ravens 28-13, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

"I'm deeply sorry for my recent post on Facebook," she said Monday. "I let the competitiveness of the game and the comments people were making about a team I dearly love get the best of me. My actions were emotional and irrational and I sincerely apologize to Ray Lewis and anyone affected by my comment after yesterday's game."

On Facebook, Welker said she was "proud of my husband and the Pats." She went on to blast Lewis: "By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!"

Her comments were also inaccurate. Lewis has never been married, although he has reportedly fathered six children by four women.

Lewis was charged with murder in Atlanta in 2000 after a brawl at a Super Bowl party. The charge was dropped and he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and testified for the prosecution against two other men.

He is also known for his charitable work, including the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation, and his public commitment to Christianity.

Djokovic, Ferrer head to Australian semis

MELBOURNE, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic won in four sets and No. 4-seeded David Ferrer survived in five Tuesday in quarterfinal play at the Australian Open.

Djokovic, the world No. 1, got by fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in Tuesday's final match and earned his 11th consecutive semifinal berth in a major tournament. Earlier Ferrer, coming from two sets and a break down, edged 10th-seeded Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.

Djokovic was coming off a 5-hour, five-set match against Stanislas Wawrinka, but, after Berdych won the first game at 15, won six consecutive games. Berdych made a first-game break -- his only of the match -- stand to take the second set.

But Djokovic won the first five games of the third set and went ahead with a third-game break in the fourth. He lost only one point in his next three service games. Berdych made Djokovic work some in the final game, fighting off two match points before Djokovic finished things.

Almagro had a break in each of the first two sets while winning 78 percent of the points on serve for the two-set lead. Almagro broke Ferrer at love for a 4-3 lead in the third set but Ferrer got his first break of the day in the 10th game and broke at love in the 12th game to take the third set.

Almagro took another lead in the fourth set but Ferrer broke right back. They traded a series of breaks -- each had four breaks in the set -- before the tiebreaker. Ferrer broke a 2-2 fifth-set tie by taking the final four games.

Djokovic takes a 9-5 series advantage over Ferrer into the semifinals. Djokovic was a straight-set winner over Ferrer in last year's Australian Open quarterfinals and beat him in four sets in the U.S. Open semis

No. 2-ranked Roger Federer goes against seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and third-seeded Andy Murray takes on unseeded Jeremy Chardy Wednesday in the other men's quarterfinals.

Sharapova, Li make Australian semifinals

MELBOURNE, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Maria Sharapova and Li Na both won in straight sets Tuesday and will meet in the women's singles semifinals of the Australian Open.

Sharapova, the world No. 2-ranked player continued her strong tournament with a 6-2, 6-2 win over 19th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova while Li ousted fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-3.

Radwanska took a 13-match winning streak, during which she had won two tournaments and hadn't lost a set, into the match against Li and led 5-4 in the first set. But Li broke Radwanska at love, rallied from a 0-30 deficit to hold for a 5-6 lead and finished off her fourth break to win the set.

Radwanska won the first two games of the second set but Li claimed the next five and survived two break points in taking the ninth game to hold for the match.

Li ended up with six breaks and won 57 percent of the points when Radwanska served.

Sharapova again made short work of her opponent. She's dropped just nine games in her five matches in Melbourne. Makarova notched a break to even the first set at 2-2 but Sharapova won the next six games to take the set and go up 2-0 in the second. She strung together another three-game winning streak and capped the match with her fifth ace of the day.

Sharapova won 70 percent of the points on serve and had 22 winners against 19 unforced errors.

Sharapova owns an 8-4 series edge over Li, including wins in all three of their 2012 meetings.

The other women's semifinal pairing is to be decided Wednesday when world No. 1 and defending Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka plays unseeded Svetlana Kuznetsova and third-seeded Serena Williams meets No. 29 Sloane Stephens.

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