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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Do you believe in Magic? LA does
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Jan. 30, 1996

The return is pure Magic. After disappearing from the Los Angeles Lakers lineup for 4 years, Magic Johnson puts on quite a show in his first game back. Playing 27 minutes as a power forward, he scores 19 points, has 10 assists and grabs eight rounds in a 128-118 victory over the Golden State Warriors at the Forum.

"It was great," Johnson says. "It was so much fun. Man!"

In one Magic moment, he brings the sellout crowd to its feet and causes the Warriors' Latrell Sprewell to be faked out of his sneakers. Johnson pretends to throws a shovel pass - Sprewell falls for it ("like a carp going after a worm," broadcaster Chick Hearn says) - and then he scores a layup. Except for appearing in the 1992 All-Star Game, Johnson hadn't played in the NBA since announcing on Nov. 7, 1991, that he was retiring from the Lakers because he had tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He is older at 36, 30 pounds heavier at 255, and wiser and more secure about his illness.

"I'm doing what I love to do," Magic says. "I wanted my son and daughter to see me play. I didn't think I went out the way I wanted to go out before, and that's the reason I'm back."

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