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MUTOMBO, CROTTY, ET AL TO VISIT AFRICA

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Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo believes sports can promote fellowship among South Africa's tribes and ethnic groups.

This week, he and three other NBA players will be in the post-Apartheid nation to conduct basketball clinics in Johannesburg and Cape Town.Also on hand will be the New York Knicks' Patrick Ewing, the Charlotte Hornets' Alonzo Mourning, the Utah Jazz's John Crotty plus Atlanta coach Lenny Wilkens and former Washington coach Wes Unseld.

But Mutombo's visit will be bittersweet.

Rwandan refugees in Africa are fleeing civil war and ethnic persecution by crossing the border into Mutombo's native Zaire.

"The reason I stopped watching TV for the past weeks is because of all these pictures they are showing of refugees in my country," he said. "So many were dying, they were burying them with tanks."

The basketball superstar said he saw tragedy while growing up in Africa for 20 years before moving to the United States.

"Still, I never got a chance to see the sadness and the ugliest pictures I'm seeing on television now," Mutombo said.

Mutombo said he is keeping an eye on South Africa to see if it can provide a model for democracy and post-colonial resurrection among African nations. His own, Zaire, is a former Belgian colony.

This week he will be close to his troubled homeland and family, yet far.

Mutombo was born in Kinshasa, Zaire's capital, where soldiers salute his father out of respect for Mutombo's NBA accomplishments and his work as a spokesman for the international relief agency CARE.

Zaire, a central African nation of 40 million, has been under the authoritarian rule of President Mobutu Sese Seko since 1965.