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He's back, and 'Zo far, 'Zo good

Mourning returns to surprise of fans and teammates

MIAMI — Alonzo Mourning was hunched over, grabbing his shorts and gasping for air. Then he stood up straight, both hands on his head and still breathing heavily.

Mourning expected to be exhausted in his return to the NBA on Tuesday night. He also figured he would misfire some shots, mistime some jumps and misjudge some rebounds.

It was all part of the process.

"I'm all right," Mourning said. "I'm just disappointed. I want to get back into a normal routine so there's not a circus around me."

Mourning, returning to the Miami Heat's lineup for the first time since being diagnosed with a kidney disease last October, had nine points and six rebounds in a 101-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

"I'm not just out here for a show, just to prove I can come back," Mourning said. "I'm out here to win, not just to prove I can come back from this disease. My purpose is to help this team win, that's the bottom line."

Mourning played 19 minutes and was 3-of-11 shooting, missing several short jumpers and a few runners in the lane.

"We're just going to have to work that out and let that sort of take on a life of its own," coach Pat Riley said. "We have to get him comfortable and get our players comfortable with him. This is another step in that process."

Mourning was strong on defense, altering shots and shutting down Toronto's inside game. The Raptors won behind 38 points from Vince Carter and a season-high 23 from Dell Curry.

The 31-year-old Mourning had been sidelined since being diagnosed with focal glomerulosclerosis, an illness that leads to kidney failure in about half the cases. If Mourning's kidneys fail, he would need dialysis or a transplant.

Mourning has been taking as many as 11 pills a day to treat his kidneys and control his blood pressure and cholesterol. He also has been following a strict low-sodium diet.

He had not played since Oct. 1 in the U.S. Olympic team's gold-medal victory over France.

The six-time All-Star and two-time defensive player of the year showed glimpses of returning to form and providing the Heat with a huge boost as they prepare for the postseason.

Mourning, the Eastern Conference's premier center, started practicing with the team several weeks ago and decided to play after doctors told him his condition might not change for a year.

None of his teammates or coaches knew about his return. Riley found out Tuesday morning.

Riley plans to used the 6-foot-10 center sparingly for now. Doctors will monitor Mourning's progress closely, and his availability will be determined on a game-to-game basis.

Riley called on Mourning early Tuesday night.

With the Heat trailing 17-14, Mourning entered the game with 3:43 to play in the first quarter.

"I got the chills," Mourning said. "It felt great. Words can't express the feeling I have for this city and the support the fans have given me through this ordeal. They are one of the reasons I made an attempt to come back."

CELTICS 115, HAWKS 112 (OT): Paul Pierce scored 41 points and EricWilliams hit a reverse layup with 17.8 seconds remaining at Atlanta as Boston won its third straight.

PACERS 110, WIZARDS 102: Jalen Rose had 35 points and 12 assists, and ReggieMiller scored 27 points as Indiana ended a seven-game road losing streak.

SPURS 93, HORNETS 79: TimDuncan scored 24 of his 34 points in the first half and grabbed 19 rebounds as host San Antonio dealt Charlotte its third straight loss.

KINGS 124, KNICKS 117 (OT): Peja Stojakovic scored 12 of his 29 points in overtime, and ChrisWebber had 39 points and 15 rebounds as Sacramento rallied past visiting New York.

CLIPPERS 101, PISTONS 94: Lamar Odom had 27 points, 11 assists and a career-high 16 rebounds as the Clippers capitalized on the fourth-quarter ejection of Detroit's Jerry Stackhouse.