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Jones, Gatlin win 100 titles at U.S. championships

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marion Jones made a triumphant return to her
sport's center stage Friday night by winning the 100 meters at the
U.S. track and field championships -- in the stadium where she won
her first national title nine years ago.

Justin Gatlin, the world 100 and 200 champion and 2004 Olympic
gold medalist in the 100, defended his U.S. 100 title easily in
9.93. Running into a stiff headwind in the event's third round of
the day, Gatlin was well off the world record of 9.77 he shares
with Jamaican Asafa Powell.

Jones, 30, won her 14th U.S. championship but first sprint title
since 2002.

"I have a passion for the sport," she said. "I have a passion
to compete, and nobody's going to take that away from me."

Basking in her return, Jones waved and smiled to the cheering
crowd as she jogged back down the stretch, a far cry from the dour
expression she wore last year when she picked up her warmups at the
starting blocks and left the track with an injury at the U.S.
championships in Carson, Calif.

"I really want to thank everybody for their support," she told
the crowd through the public address system. "I feel good. I'm
back, and doing my thing."

Jones took a year off for the birth of her son, then struggled
through injury and doping allegations that she vehemently denied.

"It's provided me with the utmost motivation to come back and
reclaim the No. 1 spot in the world," she said of the charges a
few have made against her. "I think that has increased my
motivation and put it at a level I probably haven't seen since
Sydney."

She broke out of the blocks fast into a mild headwind and held
off the competition in 11.10 seconds. Reigning world champion
Lauryn Williams was second at 11.17. Torri Edwards, the 2003 world
100 champion, was third, also in 11.17.

USA Track & Field officials may wish Jones would never have
returned to the sport, preferring to emphasizing the younger
athletes untainted by any suspicions, but the crowd of nearly
10,000 welcomed her back.

"At this point in time, the fans are the judges," Gatlin said
when asked if Jones' comeback was good for the sport, "and the way
the fans perceived her out there when she crossed the line, they
love her. So why not? It's great for track and field."

Tyson Gay was second in the men's 100 at 10.07. Shawn Crawford,
2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 200, was third at 10.26.

Severe thunderstorms forced postponement of the 100 first round
Thursday night, meaning three rounds of the race were held Friday.
Gatlin said it was the first time he's done that since high school.

Gatlin knows that anything less than a world record is a
disappointment these days.

"People wanted to come out here and see a great time," he
said. "I wasn't able to produce it. I feel bad for the fans, but
I'm going to do it again for them. I just want to go out there and
do it again for them. Hopefully next year, same time, same place,
we'll run a better time."

After the race, Gatlin was mobbed for autographs, a site rarely
seen in the United States for a track athlete.

"You're my favorit-est person in the world," one youngster
shouted.

Gatlin spent at least a half hour signing and posing for photos
on the edge of the track.

"I feel I'm a people's champ," he said. "I remember when I
was just like them, begging for autographs or even scared to come
up to an athlete I really looked up to. That means a lot to me for
them to want my autograph. I love it."

Jones has five U.S. crowns in the 100, five in the 200 and four
in the long jump. She plans to race in the 200 at this week's meet.

Jones returned to top form despite allegations that she used
performance-enhancing drugs as part of her preparation for her
phenomenal performance at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, where she
became the first track athlete to win five medals, three of them
gold.

She has never tested positive.

World champion Bryan Clay led the decathlon through five events
with 4,394 points -- 160 points off his first-day personal best. He
was dizzy and had to be helped off the track after winning his heat
in his last event of the day, the 400. Low blood sugar was blamed
and he was expected to be fine for Saturday, his agent said.

Tom Pappas, the 2003 world champion who hasn't completed a
decathlon since the 2004 Olympic trials, was second with 4,342
points.

In other finals:

• World champion Adam Nelson won his third U.S. shot put title
with a throw of 72 feet, 3 3/4 inches.

• Brian Johnson edged world and Olympic champion Dwight Phillips
to win the long jump in 26-7.

• Kim Kreiner broke the American record in the women's javelin
for the fourth time this year with a throw of 204-10.

• Kenyan Bernard Legat, now a U.S. citizen eligible to compete at
next year's worlds, won the 5,000 in 13:14.32.

• Jorge Torres captured the men's 10,000 in 28:14.43.

• Shani Marks won the triple jump with a mark of 45-7 inches.

• Jessica Cosby ended Erin Gilreath's two-year run as U.S.
champion by winning the women's hammer with a personal-best 232-3.
Gilreath was second at 227-8.

• Lauren Fleshman sprinted away in the final 100 meters to win
the women's 5,000 in 15:12.37.