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March 27, 2013 at 5:15 PM
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Injury sidelines NASCAR driver Hamlin

CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 27 (UPI) -- Denny Hamlin is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks due to a back injury sustained in a crash in last week's NASCAR race in California.

Hamlin, 32, was going against Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano for the lead in the final lap of the Auto Club 400 when they made contact and both spun. Hamlin's car hit a retaining wall.

He walked away from the wreck but then laid down on the track. He was taken to a hospital and subsequent examinations led to a diagnosis of a compression fracture of the lower back.

JGR on Wednesday announced that Hamlin would be out of racing for at least six weeks but didn't name a replacement driver.

"If me getting back in a car was based on pain tolerance then I would be in the car next week. There's just more to it that I can't control," Hamlin said in a Twitter post.

Metta World Peace out 6 weeks for surgery

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., March 27 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Lakers said Wednesday forward Metta World Peace will need surgery on his left knee and will miss at least six weeks.

World Peace is to undergo surgery Thursday in Los Angeles to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, sustained when he evidently slipped on a wet spot on the Oracle Arena court during Monday's 109-103 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

He will miss the final 11 games of the Lakers' regular season, which ends April 17. If World Peace is able to play against after six weeks, he could be available to play in the Western Conference semifinals, if the Lakers are still playing then, the Los Angeles Times said.

World Peace has averaged 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.70 steals in 70 games this season.

"It's tough to offset it, but everybody has to pick up the slack," center Dwight Howard said.

The team said Jodie Meeks will start in World Peace's place Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Kobe Bryant will guard opposing teams' small forwards.

Georgia Southern joining Sun Belt

STATESBORO, Ga., March 27 (UPI) -- Georgia Southern announced Wednesday it was leaving the Southern Conference and moving to the Sun Belt Conference effective the 2014-15 academic year.

Georgia Southern is also moving its football program from the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision to the Bowl Subdivision. The Eagles have been very successful on the FCS level, winning six national titles since 1985 and 10 conference championships since 1993.

"This is a milestone day for Georgia Southern University, and we are very excited to be joining the Sun Belt conference," Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel said.

"This decision was made with the long-term interest of our university in mind. The Sun Belt will provide our student-athletes with an outstanding opportunity to compete at a highest level and we are excited to contribute to the conference's success both on and off the field."

Appalachian State is expected to make a similar move to the Sun Belt, it was reported.

Both schools would have to wait until the 2015 football season to be eligible to be selected for a bowl appearance. Georgia Southern will retain its previously announced 2013 football schedule but won't be eligible for the FCS playoffs.

The Sun Belt currently has 11 members, although five have said they are leaving. Seven other schools, counting Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, are joining the Sun Belt in the next two years.

Austin's interest in 2024 Games waning

AUSTIN, Texas, March 27 (UPI) -- Austin, Texas, is one of 35 cities being considered to host the 2024 Olympics but officials say little has been done to follow through on bidding for the games.

Austin was among 35 cities to receive a letter a month ago from the United States Olympic Committee about the city's interest in bidding for the games, the Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday.

City leaders were upbeat at the time about the possibility of hosting the world-class event. The city's policy director, Amy Everhart, cited Austin's hosting of massive crowd-drawing events such as South by Southwest and the United States Grand Prix as proof of the city's abilities.

"Austin has become a global city, and I think we have shown ourselves as a strong venue on the world stage," she said at the time.

City council member Kathie Tovo said at the time she would "support some of the exploratory research."

Since then, however, nothing has happened, the newspaper said.

Everhart says she is not aware of any action on the matter, and Tovo said the council has neither discussed the bid nor received an update from the mayor's office.

Tovo said the cost of a bid was very expensive. Chicago spent an estimated $100 million to bid on the 2016 Olympics, which eventually was rewarded to Rio de Janeiro.

Putting on an Olympics costs even more. London spent more than $16 billion to stage the 2012 Summer Games.

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