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Thursday, April 19
Private detectives will be on watch
Associated Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Racing fans at this weekend's Talladega 500 have been warned against buying counterfeit Dale Earnhardt souvenirs. Private detectives will be watching the purchases.

Since his death Feb.18, sales of Earnhardt souvenirs have soared both in legal and illegal markets.

But any T-shirts, caps, plaques, bumper stickers, window stickers that focus on memorializing Earnhardt, or carry the "1951-2001" script, are unlicensed, Joe Hedrick, director of licensing at Dale Earnhardt Inc., said.

"Earnhardt fans across the country are being exploited by those who are merely trying to profit from this tragic situation," Hedrick said.

Detectives hired by the racing souvenir industry will mingle with the estimated 200,000 fans at Talladega Superspeedway to discourage illegal trade in Earnhardt souvenirs. Chase Authentics and Competitors View are the only companies authorized to produce the clothing brands.

Both Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Richard Childress Racing, the entities that have the rights to license Earnhardt merchandise, had warehouses full of Earnhardt souvenirs ready for the 2001 season before Earnhardt died in the season's first race.

A decision was made to sell those souvenirs and not produce any "in memory of" items.

FBI spokesman Craig Dahle said his Birmingham office could become involved once the magnitude of the illegal activity this weekend is determined. The sale of unlicensed products is both a state and federal crime, Dahle said.

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