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Armstrong, Sorenstam ESPY’s Top Athletes

July 13, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Lance Armstrong cracked risque jokes as the first athlete to host the ESPY Awards, then picked up his fourth consecutive male athlete of the year trophy Wednesday night.

``It wasn’t rigged, I promise,″ he told the Kodak Theatre audience after receiving his silver trophy from singer Mariah Carey.

Armstrong beat out fellow nominees Albert Pujols, LeBron James, Shaun Alexander and recently drafted Texas quarterback Vince Young.

It was the cyclist’s first appearance at the ESPN show honoring the year’s best sports moments and athletes. He’s usually riding in the Tour de France this time of year, but Armstrong retired after winning his record seventh championship last summer.

Armstrong singled out some of the superstar athletes in the audience during his monologue, including Olympic skier Bode Miller, who was criticized for partying hearty during the Turin Games.

``Bode Miller is here, totally sober,″ Armstrong cracked. ``He only drinks when he races.″

Comedian Will Ferrell interrupted Armstrong’s acceptance speech to sing the 1970s song ``Times of Your Life″ with lyrics rewritten for Armstrong.

``You’ve beat the best, let’s not forget every urine test,″ Ferrell crooned after introducing a white-suited astronaut the comic insisted was Armstrong’s long-lost father, Neil Armstrong.

``Neil Armstrong is not my dad and I don’t even think that’s Neil Armstrong,″ the cyclist said.

``Well said,″ Ferrell replied before plowing on with the musical parody.

Golfer Annika Sorenstam repeated as best female athlete, her eighth career ESPY. She defeated nominees snowboarder Hannah Teter, WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes and race car driver Melanie Troxel.

``A lot of great memories are coming back to me. I had a fantastic time last year,″ Sorenstam said in a taped acceptance. ``There are so many great athletes in the world out there and to receive another ESPY is beyond my dreams.″

Tiger Woods won as best golfer, earning his record 17th ESPY.

The Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers won as best team, while Bill Cowher earned coach-manager honors.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joined his teammates and Cowher onstage to accept the team award in his first public appearance since his motorcycle crash last month.

Roethlisberger didn’t appear backstage to talk to reporters.

``I have no concerns about Ben,″ Cowher said backstage. ``He’s going to have to get hit a couple times to see if he’s all the way back. Hopefully, he can be a great inspiration to a lot of people about looking at life a little more cautiously.″

Actor-presenter Mark Wahlberg took a jab at Roethlisberger’s accident, warning Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade not to ride a motorcycle this offseason. Wade smiled sheepishly in the audience.

Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman, Alexander and snowboarder Shaun ``The Flying Tomato″ White were double winners.

Pujols won for baseball player and international athlete; Alexander earned NFL player and record-breaking performance honors; and White was chosen U.S. Olympian and male action sport athlete.

The best moment award went to Jason McElwain, the autistic manager of his upstate New York high school’s basketball team, who scored 20 points in barely four minutes as a substitute.

McElwain beat out Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game last season.

The Arthur Ashe Courage Award was presented to Shamila Kohestani and Roia Noor Ahman, representing young women who play in organized soccer leagues in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

A special ESPY was presented to the boys’ basketball team from John Ehret High in Marrero, La. After Hurricane Katrina, the team was patched together and went on to win the state title.

The cable network said a record 12.1 million votes were tabulated, with fans voting online to decide the winners for the third consecutive year.

The awards will be shown Sunday night on ESPN.

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