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In brief: Cutler winner in his return to Denver

Bears tight end Desmond Clark (88) is tackled by Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams during Chicago’s preseason victory. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Bears tight end Desmond Clark (88) is tackled by Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams during Chicago’s preseason victory. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

NFL: Jay Cutler got the last laugh.

The Pro Bowl passer, who forced a blockbuster trade out of Denver last spring and became the Chicago Bears’ first franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman, returned to Denver on Sunday night and led his new team to a 27-17 preseason win over the Broncos.

Cutler disregarded the thousands of hecklers, including Broncos pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, in leading Chicago on three scoring drives, capped by a 12-play, 98-yarder just before halftime that gave the Bears a 17-3 lead.

The adversary he left behind, Broncos rookie coach Josh McDaniels, had a distressing home debut, as did Denver’s new quarterback, Kyle Orton, who gashed his right index finger to cut short a middling performance against his former team.

Cutler threw for 144 yards and a score in a crisp 15-for-21 performance before calling it a night at halftime and basking in the glow of his successful return to Invesco Field.

“I thought it was going to be like this,” Cutler said. “They got good fans here. A lot of boos – they got pretty loud there at one point. It was what we kind of prepared for.”

Chiefs wait on Cassel tests: The Kansas City Chiefs are awaiting medical tests on quarterback Matt Cassel and cornerback Brandon Flowers.

Cassel limped off the field and out of sight after he was sacked on the third play of Saturday night’s dismal 14-10 loss to Seattle, and the extent of his injury was uncertain. The same was true for Flowers, who returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown before hurting his shoulder early in the first half.

Wide receiver Devard Darling, a Washington State product, also was helped to the sideline in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury.

Rams’ Bulger returns: Rams quarterback Marc Bulger took the first step toward returning to the playing field.

Bulger, out since Aug. 17 after fracturing the pinkie on his throwing hand, threw 21 passes in a side session at the morning practice.

“The plan is to see what it feels like tomorrow morning, after having had the 21 throws,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “Then go from there.”

Bengals sign top pick: Offensive tackle Andre Smith signed a contract with the Cincinnati Bengals, ending an impasse that dragged on a month into the preseason.

The four-year deal includes $21 million guaranteed. The team has an option after the 2010 season that would turn it into a six-year deal that includes $29.5 million guaranteed.

Michigan launches investigation

College football: The University of Michigan announced it has launched an investigation into allegations that its football program regularly violates NCAA rules limiting how much time players can spend on training and practice.

The announcement from Michigan athletic director Bill Martin came after a Detroit Free Press article in which players from the 2008 and 2009 teams said the amount of time they spend on football during the season and in the offseason greatly exceeds NCAA limits. The players spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity because they feared repercussions from coaches.

“We believe we have been compliant with NCAA rules, but nonetheless we have launched a full investigation of the allegations in today’s newspaper,” he said.

Coach Rich Rodriguez and the university’s compliance director, Judy Van Horn, have denied that the football program violated NCAA rules.

Final-turn pass gives Edwards victory

Auto racing: Carl Edwards passed Marcos Ambrose on the final turn to win the crash-filled Nationwide race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, which ended with the cars on rain tires for the second straight year.

Edwards won a two-lap sprint to the finish when Ambrose, who dominated the race, slid sideways after hitting the rumble strips in Turn 14. It was Edwards’ first career road win.

Ambrose overcame three other restarts in the final 11 laps of the race, which was plagued by 11 cautions and went an extra lap.

Raikkonen continues Belgian dominance: Kimi Raikkonen held off Force India driver Giancarlo Fisichella to win Formula One’s Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, the Ferrari driver’s fourth triumph at the track in the past five years.

Crashes took out overall F1 leader Jenson Button and McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton and Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso on the opening lap. Button failed to finish in the points for the first time this season.

Championship contender Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull finished third.

Fish out of U.S. Open

Miscellany: Mardy Fish of the United States withdrew from the U.S. Open because of a rib injury.

The 25th-seeded Fish, of Tampa, Fla., was a quarterfinalist at Flushing Meadows last year.

He had been drawn to face Daniel Koellerer of Austria in the first round. Instead, Koellerer will play Rui Machado of Portugal.

ISU’s Caccia dies: Idaho State University announced that former football and baseball coach Italo I.J. “Babe” Caccia has died at age 91.

The university said Caccia died Friday in Pocatello of natural causes.

In addition to coaching, he also served as athletic director.