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Pro Football Hall of Fame makes room for six, including Bob Hayes

Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson and Derrick Thomas are also in the group.

February 01, 2009|Associated Press

Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson and Derrick Thomas. All top defensive players. And now all Pro Football Hall of Famers.

The three were elected on Saturday along with longtime Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who at age 90 will be the oldest person ever inducted; former Minnesota Vikings guard Randall McDaniel; and the late Bob Hayes, a standout wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys and the 1964 Olympic 100-meters gold medalist.

Inductions will be Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio.

The only candidate among the seven finalists who didn't get in was former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey.

Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue was denied entry for the third straight year, not even making it past the first round of cuts.

Tagliabue, who retired in 2006 after 17 years in the job, has met strong resistance in his three years of eligibility. Critics cited his inability to place a team back in Los Angeles after the Rams and Raiders left in 1995, and said the labor agreement he pushed through in 2006 was cast aside by the owners last year.

No such problems for Smith and Woodson in their first year on the ballot.

"I am overjoyed," said Smith, the career sacks leader who spent most of his career with the Bills.

"It's a great honor, a great feat," said Woodson, the former defensive back who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, among other teams, and is the career leader in interception returns for touchdowns with 12. "I'm still pinching myself a little bit, thinking it's surreal."

The most poignant moment, however, came when Hayes' sister, Lucille Hester, read from a thank-you letter Hayes left in case he made the Hall. He died in 2002.

"It didn't matter how long it took. . . . The day is here, and it is historic," she said.

Hayes was the most dangerous deep threat in pro football from 1965 to 1975. Nicknamed "Bullet Bob," he twice he led the NFL in touchdown catches and in average yards per reception. He also was a brilliant kick returner.

Wilson and the Tennessee Titans' Bud Adams are the only original American Football League members who still own their franchises. Their teams will meet in the Hall of Fame game the day after the inductions.

Thomas, who died nine years ago after an auto accident while still an active player, was the 1989 defensive rookie of the year. He is 11th in career sacks.

A rushing outside linebacker who also had responsibilities in pass coverage for Kansas City, Thomas set an NFL mark with seven sacks in one game against Seattle on Nov. 11, 1990, a year in which he led the NFL with 20 sacks.

McDaniel was that rare guard who was as effective in pass protection as run blocking and could handle even the best defensive linemen single-handedly.

He missed only two games in his 14-season career.

TV ads sold out

NBC said on the eve of the Super Bowl that it has sold the last two of the 69 advertising spots for the game, pushing total ad revenue for the event to a record $206 million.

The network said that its total of $261 million in advertising revenue for all of Super Bowl day also is a record, calling it an especially impressive feat in the middle of the economy's steep downturn.

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