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COUNT ‘EM - 11 WHEATIES CHAMPIONS!

SHARE COUNT ‘EM - 11 WHEATIES CHAMPIONS!

Coming soon to your grocery shelves - the 1996 Olympic Wheaties box. Actually, boxes.

General Mills, unable to pick just one of the extremely marketable stars of the Atlanta Summer Games, said Sunday it will produce five commemorative boxes featuring gold medal winners.On the boxes will be sprinter Michael Johnson, swimmers Tom Dolan and Amy Van Dyken, decathlete Dan O'Brien and the seven members of the U.S. women's gymnastics team.

Are the Wheaties folks taking this thing a bit too far?

"Not with these five," said Shawn O'Grady, Wheaties marketing manager. "If you were stretching on five, maybe. But all five are such great stories and great champions that, if anything, we think it will enhance what it means to be a Wheaties champion."

Minneapolis-based General Mills hopes to see Wheaties sales jump as much as 20 percent with the Olympic boost. The boxes hit the stores in about a week.

The winner of the Wheaties box derby had caused more guessing at the Games than anything this side of the U.S. men's 400-meter relay team lineup.

And General Mills milked it for all it was worth, unveiling the box Sunday with showbiz snazz.

Getting on a Wheaties box has for generations been confirmation that an athlete has achieved supremacy not only on the playing field but, more importantly, in the marketplace. Among Olympians, decathlete Bruce Jenner and gymnast Mary Lou Retton are recent honorees.

"This is one of my dreams," said O'Brien.