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Magic Johnson returns for All-Star Game

After stunning the world three months earlier with the news he had contracted the HIV virus and was immediately retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers, basketball great Magic Johnson returns to play in the 42nd NBA All-Star game in Orlando, Florida, where the crowd greeted him with a standing ovation.

On November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson held a news conference to announce he had tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At the time, Johnson, was one of the biggest stars in basketball, having won five NBA championships with the Lakers and played in 11 All-Star games. At the time Johnson went public with his diagnosis, AIDS was highly stigmatized and considered a disease that affected only the gay community and drug addicts. Johnson’s announcement signaled to the public that heterosexuals were also at risk for the disease.

Despite not playing during the 1991-92 regular season, fans voted Johnson, a hugely popular point guard known for his passing skills and infectious smile, to the All-Star team representing the Western Conference. Prior to the All-Star game, some players, including Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, expressed concerns that Johnson posed a health risk to other players. However, when Johnson stepped onto the court in Orlando on February 9, 1992, he was met with a standing ovation from fans and his friend and rival player Isiah Thomas kissed him. Johnson played a total of 29 minutes, during which he scored 25 points, made nine assists and helped the West beat the East, 153-113. As the game ended, players from both teams came onto the court and hugged Johnson, who was also named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

That summer, Johnson played on the American basketball squad– nicknamed the Dream Team–that captured the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Johnson then staged a short NBA comeback, coaching a series of Lakers’ games in the 1993-94 season and playing 32 games for the team in the 1995-96 season. After leaving his playing days behind for the final time, Johnson became an AIDS activist and successful entrepreneur.

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