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Memorable moments in Atlanta sports history

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Why the GOATs won't decide who wins Super Bowl LIII (2:01)

Tom Brady and Aaron Donald might be two of the best to ever grace the gridiron, but these players will have more influence over who wins the big game. (2:01)

Atlanta is no stranger to big stars and big moments in sports. With all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the Super Bowl, it's safe to say the matchup between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams has a strong chance to add to the city's lore.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host Super Bowl LIII, a game that already has its share of controversy because of the events that took place in the conference championship games -- particularly the Rams' good fortune against the New Orleans Saints. Will Tom Brady add another ring to his collection? Who will win the battle of wits between 66-year-old Bill Belichick and 33-year-old Sean McVay? Will we see more controversy? (Probably.)

With the big game on deck, we look at some other memorable moments in Atlanta sports history.


NFL

1992: Double duty for Deion

Cringing because you have to work overtime? Deion Sanders was happy to do so on Oct. 11, 1992, as he attempted to become the first man to play two professional sports on the same day. "This is the sort of thing every kid dreams about," Sanders told CBS. "... I'm a kid, still." Sanders started for the Atlanta Falcons in Miami that day, returning kicks and punts, playing all but one down on defense and even catching a pass on offense. After receiving IV treatment, Sanders took his show Prime Time to join the Atlanta Braves for Game 5 of the NLCS in Pittsburgh. He took a private jet to Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, then was helicoptered to Pittsburgh, landing on the roof of a downtown building. A limo took him to Three Rivers Stadium, where he walked in the Braves' clubhouse minutes before the game started. But Sanders wouldn't get into that game, busting the myth he actually played in both games.

1998: Falcons stun 16-1 Vikings

The Miss. The Vikings were favorites to win the Super Bowl after a 15-1 regular season. The Falcons had other plans. Aided by Gary Anderson's late misfire on a 38-yard field goal attempt -- his first miss all season and one that prevented the Vikings from taking a 10-point lead with 2:07 left -- the Falcons went on a 70-yard drive at the end of regulation to force overtime. Morten Andersen's 38-yard field goal in overtime would propel Atlanta to its first Super Bowl appearance. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Broncos two weeks later. "If I can handle this with my heart, I can handle anything," said Falcons coach Dan Reeves, who had quadruple heart bypass surgery a month earlier. "It was a great football game. I'm glad I saw it."

2000: The Longest Yard

One of the most thrilling finishes to a Super Bowl came when the St. Louis Rams faced the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta's Georgia Dome on Jan. 30, 2000. And depending on your rooting interest, the game could be billed as "One Yard Short" or "The Tackle." After blowing a 16-0 lead, the Rams went up 23-16 with under two minutes left when Kurt Warner connected with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown. But the Titans weren't done. They drove the ball to the Rams' 10-yard line with six seconds left. On the game's final play, Steve McNair hit Kevin Dyson with a pass, but before Dyson could reach the end zone, linebacker Mike Jones wrapped up the receiver's legs, stopping him at the 1. In an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2016, Jones said he was supposed to cover tight end Frank Wycheck but kept an eye on Dyson, allowing Jones to make one of the most memorable tackles in football history. "Kevin and I have talked about this," Jones said. "I thought I was going to kill him, because he didn't know I was coming -- but Kevin actually knew that I was in that coverage. So I went from killing him to just trying to tackle him, and he hits the ground and sticks the ball out. It was a little too close for comfort."


NCAA Football

2018: Alabama stuns Georgia

A little less than a year after the Falcons blew a 25-point lead and lost in overtime to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, some local fans had to endure more anguish at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Jan. 8, 2018. Playing for the College Football Playoff National Championship, Georgia had built a 13-point halftime lead over Alabama and held a 10-point edge going into the fourth quarter. It wouldn't last. Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who had taken over for a struggling Jalen Hurts after halftime, rallied the Tide with three touchdown passes. After hitting Calvin Ridley to send the game into overtime, Tagovailoa connected with DeVonta Smith from 41 yards away to give Alabama a 26-23 win and Nick Saban his fifth national title since taking over in Tuscaloosa. "There's lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game," Saban said. "These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, 'Don't waste the feeling.' They sure didn't, the way they played tonight."


NBA

1986: The Human Highlight Film vs. Spud

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5-foot-7 Spud Webb redefines the dunk contest

In honor of the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 NBA dunk contest, take a look back at Webb's incredible performance that helped him beat defending champion Dominique Wilkins.

The All-Star Weekend slam dunk contest took place at Reunion Arena in Dallas, but it was the pair of Atlanta Hawks players who stole the show. NBA rookie Spud Webb -- all 5-foot-7 of him -- went toe to toe with defending champ Dominique Wilkins, who stood over a foot taller. Webb mixed in a reverse, a double-pump jam, a 360 and, of course, a lob pass off the backboard to himself for a slam. Among Wilkins' powerful arsenal: a two-handed windmill dunk, a windmill that ended as a one-handed tomahawk and a reverse in which he brought the ball down to his ankles in the air before slamming it down. But it was David who beat Goliath on this memorable night, with a raucous crowd chanting "Spud" as he delivered his clinching dunk. "Spud was the people's choice," said Celtics legend Dave Cowens, one of the five judges of the contest. "We tried to be as fair as we could, but I don't know how he could have lost it."

1988: Game 7 shootout

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On this date: Bird, Dominique duel in playoffs

On May 22, 1988, Larry Bird led the Celtics past Dominique Wilkins and the Hawks to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Hawks came up short in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics, but the series finale showcased a duel between Wilkins and Larry Bird that became an instant classic. Bird had 34 points, scoring 20 in the final quarter, to send the Celtics to a 118-116 victory at Boston Garden. Wilkins, meanwhile, kept the Hawks close throughout, finishing with 47 points on an astounding 19-for-23 shooting. "It was like two gunfighters waiting to blink," Celtics forward Kevin McHale told NBA.com. "There was one stretch that was as pure a form of basketball as you're ever going to see."


MLB

1974: Aaron becomes home run king

Just four games into the 1974 season, baseball had a new home run king. Hank Aaron had finished the 1973 season with 713 career long balls, just one behind Babe Ruth. After tying the all-time mark on Opening Day, Aaron blasted No. 715 on April 8, 1974, in the fourth inning off the Dodgers' Al Downing, setting a new standard in front of a sellout crowd of 53,775 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton delivered the memorable call: "Here's a drive into left-center field. That ball is gonna be ... outta here! It's gone! It's 715! There's a new home run champion of all time, and it's Henry Aaron."

1982: Braves' bakers' dozen

The Braves in 1982 became the first MLB team to open a season with 13 straight wins. Led by outfielder Dale Murphy, who that season would win the first of back-to-back MVPs, and manager Joe Torre, the Braves went on to win the NL West but fall to the Cardinals in the NLCS. ''I'm having a lot of fun," Torre said after the Braves' 12th win in the streak. "This is a good team, and we're going to be doing a lot of winning.''

1991: Worst-to-first World Series

The Braves had become baseball's bottom-feeders from 1986 to 1990, finishing last in the NL West four times. Their home games regularly drew a few thousand fans. America's Team, they were not. But that all changed in 1991. The Braves began to pack Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in the final months of that season, their faithful chanting and tomahawk-chopping during every win. The Braves, led by a young pitching staff, made up a 9½-game deficit against the Dodgers at the All-Star break and won the division. Then, they beat the Pirates in the NLCS in seven games and found themselves in the World Series against the Twins, who, like the Braves, had finished last in their division the prior season. It was the first time a World Series was played between teams that had finished in last place the previous year. And what a classic it was. The Twins won in seven in what is considered one of the greatest World Series ever played. Five of the games were decided by one run, with Minnesota winning Games 6 and 7 in extra innings. "The only thing better," Braves second baseman Mark Lemke said after Game 7, "would have been if we stopped after nine innings and cut the trophy in half." Little did Lemke and Atlanta know what their 1991 miracle season would lead to ...

1992: Sid's slide

Sid Bream was known as a good gloveman at first base and a solid contact hitter. Fleet of foot? After six knee surgeries, forget it. That's why his dash from second base in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS will never be forgotten in Atlanta. The Braves trailed the Pirates 2-1 with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth. Pinch hitter Francisco Cabrera stepped up and whacked a bullet to left field. David Justice scored the tying run, with Bream charging home behind him. Pirates left fielder Barry Bonds fired a strike to the plate, but the left foot of a sliding Bream narrowly beat the tag. Justice and the rest of the Braves mobbed Bream at the scene as they headed to their second straight World Series. "I'll be the first to tell anyone who asks that I was probably the worst possible person to have on base in a situation where you desperately needed a run to score from second," Bream wrote on The Players' Tribune in 2017.

1993: Catching fire

To say the Braves got the spark they needed on July 20, 1993, would be, well, quite the understatement. They trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine games in the NL West and, in an attempt to make a dent in their deficit, traded for first baseman Fred McGriff. But before the slugger could make his debut with the Braves that night, a food-heating unit ruptured, causing part of the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium press box to go up in flames. The game with the St. Louis Cardinals was delayed by two hours, and after five innings -- the Cardinals led 5-0 -- it looked as if the blaze was a bad omen for the Braves. It wasn't. Atlanta scored three runs in the sixth, and with a runner on base, McGriff came to the plate. He drilled a shot over the center-field wall, tying the score. It led to an 8-5 victory for the Braves, who from July 20 went 51-17 and captured their third straight division crown on the last day of the season with their 104th win. "I'm standing next to [former owner] Ted Turner, and he says to me, 'Tonight, the stadium caught on fire, and so will the Braves,'" Braves Hall of Fame executive John Schuerholz told USA Today.

1995: City celebrates first championship

Getting to the World Series in the 1990s was not uncommon for the Braves. Coming away with the trophy? That was another story. The Braves, who won 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005, went to the World Series five times in the '90s but only came away with the hardware in 1995. It is the only major championship Atlanta pro sports has achieved. After losing in the Fall Classic in 1991 to the Twins and in 1992 to the Blue Jays, the Braves won their division by 21 games in 1995 behind a rotation that included Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. The Braves would go on to defeat the Indians for their first World Series title since the franchise moved to Atlanta, clinching in Game 6 behind a Justice homer and a combined one-hitter by Glavine and Mark Wohlers. "No one beats that kind of pitching -- no one," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said after Atlanta beat Cleveland 1-0 in Game 6. "We maybe had three good swings the whole night."

2014: Taking over Cooperstown

Braves Country held a celebration in Cooperstown, New York, on July 27, 2014, as longtime co-aces Maddux and Glavine, and former manager Bobby Cox were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Maddux won three Cy Youngs with Atlanta and four in his career, while Glavine won two Cy Youngs and was the 1995 World Series MVP. Cox is fourth on the all-time managerial wins list, guiding the Braves to a record 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005 (the 1994 season was canceled) and winning the '95 World Series. Multiple Hall of Famers, 14 straight trips to the postseason and only one world title? Indeed, the Braves have their critics. But Torre, who also was inducted in the 2014 Cooperstown class, says knocking them is foolish. "I know everybody likes to see the bottom line -- you know, 'How many World Series did you win?'" Torre told ESPN. "But getting in the position to be in the World Series is not easy. For them to compete every single year, change personnel every single year and still be there, I always admired that."


Boxing

1990: Holyfield becomes heavyweight champ

Atlanta native Evander Holyfield had worked his way up the ranks and was slated to face Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship. There was one problem: Tyson shockingly lost in a tune-up fight as a 42-1 favorite against James "Buster" Douglas. Holyfield instead faced Douglas at the Mirage in Las Vegas and knocked out the champ in his first title defense in the third round for the WBA, WBC, IBF, The Ring and lineal heavyweight championships. "I was hoping he wouldn't get back up," Holyfield said after his KO of Douglas. "I knew I hit him with a good shot."


Golf

2018: Back on top

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Tiger: Finally winning again is 'surreal'

Tiger Woods joins Scott Van Pelt to describe the emotions of breaking a 5-year winless drought and the support of his fans.

He was supposed to be done. His career, kaput, after injuries took its toll on Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest to ever tee it up. The former top-ranked player in the world hadn't tasted victory in over five years, undergoing his fourth back surgery in 2017 and even falling out of the top 1,000 in the world rankings that year. But Woods made strides in 2018, consistently earning top-10 finishes and contending for two majors. Finally, on Sept. 23, 2018, the magic returned. Woods captured the season-ending Tour Championship by two strokes for his 80th PGA Tour win. But the scene with Tiger raising his arms after tapping in on 18 isn't what golf fans will remember. It will be of Woods walking up the 18th fairway at East Lake, with thousands of fans rushing to be near him, trying to capture a moment many experts -- and even Woods himself -- never thought they would see again. "You know, I've explained throughout the year that I just didn't know whether -- when this would ever happen again," Woods said. "If I could somehow piece together a golf swing this year, I felt I could do it. My hands are good enough, and I just didn't know if I could piece together a golf swing. But somehow I've been able to do that, and here we are."


Olympics

1996: The Greatest lights the torch

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Muhammad Ali lights the torch at the 1996 Olympics

NBC Sports senior advisor Dick Ebersol joins Mike & Mike to share how he got Muhammad Ali to light the Olympic torch in 1996 and his recollections of the event.

One of the most iconic athletes in the world, Muhammad Ali provided plenty of memorable moments during his career. He still had another up his sleeve. The former champ and 1960 gold-medal winner, suffering from Parkinson's disease, took the torch from American Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer Janet Evans, hands shaking, and lit the flame during the opening ceremonies for the 1996 Games in Atlanta. "Muhammad Ali may be, outside of perhaps the Pope, the most beloved figure in the world." former NBC executive Dick Ebersol said. "In the third world, he's a hero. In the Muslim world, he's a hero and fellow traveler. To anybody young -- just about -- in the United States, he's a man of great moral principle who was willing to go to prison."