NFL Notes

Vegas bookies favor 49ers by 4.5 points

If the Baltimore Ravens are to become Super Bowl champions, they'll have to beat the odds again to do it.

Bookmakers in this gambling city mostly have the San Francisco 49ers 4.5-point favorites over the Ravens in the Super Bowl, amid expectations this could be the heaviest bet title game ever.

"It's a monster matchup, brother versus brother," William Hill oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. "I believe it will top last year's Super Bowl handle and could go higher."

Some sports books didn't even wait until the clock ran out in the Ravens win over the New England Patriots to set the line. At the LVH sports book, a line favoring the 49ers by 4.5 points was put up just before the 2-minute warning, and bettors didn't waste any time to get money down on the game.

"We've got money coming in as we speak, it looks like it will be good on both sides," said LVH book director Jay Kornegay. "These teams mirror each other, but the 49ers are a bit more sexy now than the Ravens."

At William Hill, which operates 75 betting parlors in Nevada, oddsmakers opened the game with the 49ers a 5-point favorite, as did some other books. But it was quickly bet down to 4.5 points, a line that seemed to be holding in the early betting.

"We had what I consider a large bet come in at 5 points and moved down from there," said Vaccaro, who said he believes the line will hold between 4 and 4 ½ points until close to the day of the game.

Baltimore already is the first underdog of more than a touchdown to win both the division and championship playoff rounds. The Ravens were 7.5-point underdogs to the Patriots before beating them 28-13 to win the AFC title game.

"The Ravens are the hot team now but they're not getting a lot of support from the public," Kornegay said. "These are very similar teams, both can run the ball well, play smash mouth football and have two quarterbacks playing very good football."

Last year's game between the New York Giants and the Patriots drew $93.9 million in wagers in Nevada, just under the record $94.5 million bet in 2006 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. Those who follow the betting industry closely say hundreds of millions of dollars - possibly even billions - will be bet on the game by the time the offshore sports books and illegal bookmakers take in their share.

Like the LVH, some books in Las Vegas opened the game at 4.5 points, while others put their number up at 5. Most of the major Las Vegas sports books were at 4.5 points, with a few listing the 49ers at 4 points Sunday night.

The over/under, where bettors can wager on whether the two teams will combine for more or less points than the posted number, was at 49 points at most books.

NFC postgame fight leaves man injured

A man was injured in a fight outside the Georgia Dome and taken to nearby Grady Hospital following Atlanta's loss to San Francisco in the NFC title game.

Georgia Dome spokesman Jason Kirksey emailed a statement to The Associated Press Sunday saying an altercation occurred in a parking lot outside the dome at 6:40 p.m.

The 35-year-old's name was not released. The statement says he is in stable condition and that it is unclear "if anyone involved in the altercation attended the game." Georgia Dome and Atlanta police "are investigating the incident."

WSB-TV reported a Falcons fan and a 49ers fan argued after game and the Atlanta fan punched San Francisco fan, who pulled out a knife. They reported one of the two men was stabbed in the neck.

Payton Award finalists announced

Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns and Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys are finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

The award will be presented in New Orleans, when The Associated Press announces the winners of its annual NFL honors, including Most Valuable Player, in a two-hour prime-time special on Super Bowl eve.

The show, "NFL Honors," will be broadcast on CBS on Feb. 2 at 9 p.m.

The only league award that recognizes a player's community service as well as his playing excellence, the Walter Payton winner will have a $20,000 donation made in his name to his favorite charity.

Fitzgerald, Thomas and Witten were chosen from among the 32 team nominees, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name.

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