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Manning gets slice of pizza market in new hometown

Manning gets slice of pizza market in new hometown

DENVER (AP) Now Broncos fans can call the audibles while Peyton Manning cheers them on.

Pepperoni! No, make that sausage!

Manning became the newest franchisee for Papa John's pizza, signing a deal to own 21 stores in the Denver area Friday, the same day the pizza maker also announced it had signed a multi-year contract to continue as the official pizza of the NFL and the Super Bowl. Terms were not disclosed.

``He's the kind of partner we're looking for, not only in marketing but in business,'' said Papa John's chief marketing officer, Andrew Varga.

Manning connected with Papa John's for a promotion at the 2011 Super Bowl and has since been featured in commercials with founder and CEO John Schnatter. The most recent ad shows the quarterback goading Schnatter into offering a total of 2 million free pizzas to fans who win weekly drawings, doubling the number of freebies the CEO gave away last year.

During Sunday's game between the Broncos and Saints, Manning will star in a new commercial stating that, as a new franchisee, he, too, now gets to give away free pizzas. He also gives fans information about how to join him in becoming a franchise owner.

``It's a smart investment now and will be long after I'm done playing football,'' Manning said.

With his quick wit and clean off-the-field reputation, Manning has long been considered one of the top pitchmen in sports. The spoof he did of himself in a send-up of a United Way commercial on ``Saturday Night Live'' is a classic.

Papa John's has spent the last decade or so solidifying its sports connections. It's the title sponsor of the football stadium at University of Louisville. It also had its name on the college bowl game held in Birmingham, Ala., from 2006-2011.

The company signed with the NFL in 2010 and has been expanding the partnership since then.

Now, it has Manning as its No. 1 pitchman.

``The pizza category is fun. Our founder has fun when he gets into the commercials,'' Varga said. ``You throw Peyton into that mix with the NFL platform and it makes it easy to execute lighthearted commercials that are very much in character for both.''

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.