NFL: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was cleared by doctors and returned to practice for the team Thursday. Assuming he doesn’t have a setback in his recovery from a concussion, he is optimistic he will start Sunday’s game against Miami.
Rodgers practiced on a limited basis, taking the majority of snaps during the portion of practice that was open to the media. Rodgers sustained a concussion during Sunday’s overtime loss at Washington.
• Favre limited in practice: Brett Favre returned to practice for the Minnesota Vikings, one day after sitting out to rest his sore right elbow.
Favre has been bothered by tendinitis in his throwing elbow and said earlier this week that he would consider sitting out a game or two to rest it if the condition worsens. The Vikings host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
• Branch takes pay cut with Patriots: Wide receiver Deion Branch has restructured his contract to take less money from the New England Patriots.
Branch, reacquired Monday in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, said his contract had been restructured but did not give details.
The restructuring makes more money available for the Patriots to pursue a contract extension for wide receiver Wes Welker.
• Lions’ Burleson fined for celebration: The NFL has fined Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson $15,000 for two rule violations – kicking the football into the stands and displaying an unauthorized shirt with a personal message written on it – in last Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams.
Gordon wins pole; Johnson finishes 10th
NASCAR: Jeff Gordon recovered from a poor practice session in the daylight to post the fastest lap once night fell at Charlotte Motor Speedway to capture the pole for Saturday’s Sprint Cup race at Concord, N.C.
Gordon, in fourth place in the points standings, had a speed of 191.544 mph. He barely held off Carl Edwards, who will start second Saturday night after a lap of 191.455 mph.
AJ Allmendinger qualified third, followed by Mark Martin, Paul Menard and Kyle Busch.
Jimmie Johnson, the points leader who’s seeking a fifth straight Sprint Cup title, will start 10th.
Lightning beat Flyers in Gagne’s return
NHL: Steven Stamkos, Dominic Moore and Paval Kubina scored goals to help the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the host Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in an emotional return for Simon Gagne.
Gagne, a playoff hero last season in the Flyers’ run to the Stanley Cup finals, spent the first 10 seasons of his career with Philadelphia before being dealt to Tampa Bay during the summer to clear salary-cap space.
• Sullivan scores twice as Predators beat Blues: At Nashville, Tenn., Steve Sullivan scored two goals and the Nashville Predators beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3 to improve to 3-0 for the second time in franchise history.
Marcel Goc and Patric Hornqvist also scored for Nashville. Matt D’Agostini, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund scored for St. Louis.
Lincicome tops LPGA leaders; Ward second
Golf: Brittany Lincicome shot an 11-under-par 61, recording the tour’s best round of the season on the first day of the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Danville, Calif..
Lincicome had 11 birdies at the 6,185-yard Blackhawk Country Club, posting the second-lowest under-par score in tour history. The 61 also was a career best for Lincicome.
Wendy Ward was four shots back after a bogey-free 65. Moira Dunn had a 66 and Jin Young Pak, Michele Redman, Amy Hung and Katherine Hull each shot round of 67.
Ward (Edwall, Wash.) had five birdies over her first nine holes, then added two more on the back to stay close. She made a 40-foot putt on the par-4 No. 12, offsetting two short missed putts on Nos. 6 and 9.
“The pace of the greens is really good,” said Ward, who recently changed putters. “I’ve just been fine-tuning my stroke, and seeing putts go in the hole always leads to confidence.”
• Mediate takes early Frys.com Open lead: Rocco Mediate had a hole-in-one on the par-3 third hole and shot a bogey-free 7-under 64 to top the leaderboard in the first round of the PGA’s Frys.com Open at San Martin, Calif.
Paul Goydos, Bo Van Pelt and Ryuji Imada opened with 65s, and John Mallinger, Michael Letzig, Shaun Micheel and Will MacKenzie had 66s.
Alex Prugh (Ferris) opened with a 3-under 69, leaving him five shots back of Mediate.
Melzer upsets favored Nadal in Shanghai
Miscellany: Rafael Nadal, winner of three Grand Slam tennis titles this year, lost to Austria’s Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the third round of the Shanghai Masters. It was the first time this year the top-ranked Spaniard failed to reach the quarterfinals.
In other action, Roger Federer beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against Robin Soderling, who defeated 11th-seeded David Ferrer 7-5, 6-4.
• Maui Invitational to expand field in 2011: The 2011 EA Sports Maui Invitational will feature 2009-10 national basketball champion Duke, a four-time Maui Invitational champion, along with past national champions Kansas, UCLA, Michigan and Georgetown.
In addition to the 12 games played at the Lahaina (Hawaii) Civic Center from Nov. 21-23, there will be 11 games played on the U.S. mainland, the first expansion for the Maui Invitational since it went from four to eight teams in 1986.
The four teams that will play in the mainland games from Nov. 11-17 will be announced at a later date.