- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

PRO FOOTBALL

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - San Francisco outside linebacker Aldon Smith acknowledged Tuesday that he visited Ray McDonald’s home for a short time the day the ex-49ers defensive lineman is accused of sexually assaulting a woman.

Smith said he didn’t drink any alcohol and that he is regularly checked for sobriety. He served a nine-game suspension this year for violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.

“As far as it’s concerned, I was over at Ray’s house for close to an hour,” Smith said at his locker. “I didn’t drink one thing. And as far as it goes, relating to that, I have nothing else to say. It’s not my issue or my problem.”

Court documents unsealed Monday said the encounter occurred Dec. 14, a few hours after the 49ers returned from a 17-7 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle.

DETROIT (AP) - Lions center Dominic Raiola lost his appeal of a one-game suspension for stepping on Chicago Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson.

Appeals officer Derrick Brooks, the Hall of Fame linebacker appointed by the NFL and the players’ union, upheld the suspension Tuesday.

The punishment was handed down Monday by Merton Hanks, the NFL’s vice president of football operations. The league said this was Raiola’s sixth rules violation related to player safety since 2010.

Raiola stepped on Ferguson’s right ankle Sunday while the Chicago lineman was on the ground early in the third quarter. Raiola said after the game it was not intentional, and that he talked to Ferguson and apologized.

Raiola has been with the Lions for his entire 14-year career, playing every game of every season except 2008.

Detroit plays at Green Bay on Sunday for the NFC North title.

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers practiced Tuesday and said he’s not feeling the effects of back and rib injuries.

Rivers said others in the locker room are feeling more pain than he is and then added: “I have nothing right now hurting at all.”

Rivers declined to confirm or deny reports he has a bulging disc in his back. He’s been listed on the injury report as having back and chest injuries.

Rivers sat out two practices last week and then led a dramatic comeback in a 38-35 overtime victory at San Francisco on Saturday night.

The Chargers (9-6) need to win at Kansas City on Sunday to clinch a wild-card berth.

PRO BASKETBALL

MIAMI (AP) - Over the years, the Miami Heat have seen Josh Smith put up some big games against them, and more than a few clunkers as well.

Now the Heat wouldn’t mind seeing what he does in their colors.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade said Tuesday that he’s supporting the team’s quest to add Smith, who became available somewhat unexpectedly earlier this week when the Detroit Pistons - who signed him to a four-year, $54 million deal in July 2013 - waived the enigmatic small forward.

“My initial thought with Josh Smith is the same as anyone’s initial thoughts,” Wade said. “He’s a very talented guy who in the right situation can help a team.”

Miami hopes Smith thinks having a chance to start alongside Wade and Chris Bosh is that right situation.

ATLANTA (AP) - Paul Walther, who played six seasons in the NBA in the 1950s after a stellar college career at Tennessee, has died. He was 87.

Son Brian Walther said Tuesday his father died Sunday in an Atlanta hospice.

Walther played from 1949-50 to 1954-55 for the Minneapolis Lakers, Indianapolis Olympians, Philadelphia Warriors and Fort Wayne Pistons. He scored more than 2,800 points for his career. He started for the West in the 1952 All-Star game.

A native of Covington, Kentucky, Walther led Tennessee to an 18-5 record in 1945 before serving in the Navy during World War II. He returned to Tennessee from 1947-49 and was team captain in his final season. After his NBA career, he worked for Merrill Lynch in Chicago for 32 years.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says wide receiver Shaq Roland has left the team just days before the Independence Bowl.

Shortly after arriving in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Tuesday, Spurrier said the junior didn’t make the bowl trip and appears to be planning to drop out of school and turn pro.

Roland was named the best high school player in South Carolina in 2011, but never quite lived up to the hype with the Gamecocks.

He caught 26 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in 2014, showing little improvement from his sophomore season. Roland caught 56 passes for 891 yards and 10 TDs in his three years at South Carolina. The Gamecocks face Miami in Saturday’s Independence Bowl.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida A&M; has hired former Buffalo offensive coordinator Alex Wood as its next football coach. The university announced the hiring Tuesday.

Wood has a diverse background with 30 years of coaching experience. He was part of two national championship teams as Miami running backs coach from 1989-93. He served as Wake Forest offensive coordinator from 1993-94 before being named head coach at James Madison from 1995-98. Wood also worked as an NFL assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings. He was the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator in 2004.

Wood started at Buffalo in 2011 and was named interim head coach in October. The Bulls had the No. 3 scoring offense in the Mid-American Conference last season. Wood replaces Earl Holmes, who was fired after going 6-16 in 22 games.

BASEBALL

ATLANTA (AP) - A person with direct knowledge of the deal tells The Associated Press the Atlanta Braves and veteran reliever Jason Grilli have agreed to a two-year contract.

The person says the agreement includes a club option for a third year. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced.

The 38-year-old right-hander will fill a setup role for closer Craig Kimbrel. He will help replace Jordan Walden, who was traded with right fielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals in the offseason deal that sent starting pitcher Shelby Miller to Atlanta.

Grilli was an All-Star closer for the Pirates in 2013, when he had 33 saves. He lost his stopper job before he was traded to the Angels on June 27, 2014. He finished with a combined 12 saves and 4.00 ERA last season.

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