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  March 11, 1999

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Racing along with Goldberg

 From Supreme Court justices to professional wrestlers, NASCAR's Winston Cup Series appeals to just about everybody.

Last month, businessman Donald Trump watched the Daytona 500 from a suite, Clarence Thomas waved the starting flag, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre gave the command to start the engines and Paul Newman turned out in support of rookie and family friend Stanton Barrett.

Now, the man wrestling fans call "Goldberg" will be the grand marshal Sunday for the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"This is certainly the highest honor that I have had bestowed upon me in my professional career," said Bill Goldberg, former Georgia and Atlanta Falcons football player and now a World Championship Wrestling star.

"I never thought when I went to my first race several years ago that I would be standing in front of the crowd one day to give the command to start the engines."

The Georgian said he became a race fan about six years ago.

"I live in Dawsonville, and Bill Elliott is my next-door neighbor, so he's one of my favorite drivers," Goldberg said. "I like Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon."

Goldberg played at Georgia from 1985-1989, and was twice named All-SEC. His three-year NFL career was ended by an abdominal injury.

After more than a year of rehabilitation, Goldberg became a wrestler. He has since become one of the sport's biggest stars, but driving race cars has always fascinated him.

"I'm a collector of old muscle cars, and I love to drive," Goldberg said. "It would be fabulous to get the opportunity to at least try out one of these cars."

Meanwhile, Goldberg will be content with getting Sunday's race started, although he probably won't use the traditional "Gentlemen, start your engines" command.

"You never know what I might say," Goldberg explained. "I heard Brett Favre use 'let's get it on' to start the race in Daytona. Maybe I'll talk to that boxing guy, Michael Buffer, and see if he'll let me use a few of his catch phrases."

Buffer, a ring announcer, says "Let's get ready to RUMBULLLLLE!." In fact, he used it in the season-opening Indy Racing League event in January at Walt Disney World Speedway.

World Championship Wrestling sponsors a car on the NASCAR circuit, driven by Jerry Nadeau.

-- Associated Press

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