Earvin "Magic" Johnson walks into the theater and eases his 6-foot-9-inch frame into one of the plush, oversize rocking-chair seats.

By now, he has answered the same questions from the media more than a dozen times.

Why, when no one else would invest, would he lend his name and capital to a project in Harlem? Why Crenshaw?

"This is about giving back to my community, giving back to the community that raised me and stuck by me," Johnson said. He added that the satisfaction he gets in bringing quality entertainment and restaurants to underserved urban communities pales in comparison to the five championship rings he won with the Los Angeles Lakers.

This is the legacy that the former National Basketball Association star-turned-businessman is creating.

"When I'm gone, this building will still be here," the NBA great beamed recently as he sat in his newest theater. "This is what it's about."

With the formal opening of the Magic Johnson Theatres in Largo this month, Prince George's County became one of a growing list of communities, previously shunned by high-end retailers and restaurateurs, that Johnson has chosen to help spur economic development.

The theater, which sits in the rear of the county's newest shopping center, the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, boasts 12 screens, with each auditorium equipped for 100 to 340 people, for a total of 2,600 seats. In addition to the large, comfortable seats and extra leg room, the movie complex offers state-of-the-art digital sound and party rooms.

Carolyn Winbush of Mitchellville commended Johnson for bringing a quality entertainment complex to a county that has been without one for as long as she can remember. Like most of the crowd of nearly 200 who attended last week's grand opening, she hopes others will follow Johnson's lead.

Hip-hop star Doug E. Fresh and the marching bands of Largo High School and Bowie State University joined in the celebration before Johnson addressed the crowd.

During the opening ceremony, Johnson was joined on the makeshift stage by County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, Baltimore-based developer David Cordish, County Council Vice Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) and Wayne K. Curry, the former county executive who, during his tenure, initiated the talks that eventually brought Magic Johnson and his investment capital to Prince George's.

"If we are going to get other quality retailers, you have got to support this whole center," the former basketball star told the crowd outside the shopping mall. Magic Johnson added that he hopes Prince George's experiences the same growth that Harlem has felt since he opened his theater there four years ago.

"After my theater came, the Disney Store, Old Navy and on and on," Johnson said in an interview. "Then I put the Starbucks there and now [Bill] Clinton, a former president, is there. . . . Harlem is back. I helped kick that off."

The theater is already having an impact on the county's economics, the county executive said.

"One hundred young people are working" thanks to Magic Johnson's investment, Jack Johnson said.

Elected officials said they look forward to what is in store for Prince George's County.

"We needed this," Del. Veronica L. Turner (D-Camp Springs) said, looking through the doors of the theater and the expansive lobby that showcases famous African Americans. "Our county needed some upscale retailers. We need revenue, and this is a sure way to bring big businesses."

The main lobby of the new Magic Johnson movie theater complex at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo shows the locations and opening dates of Johnson's five other theaters. The complex has 12 screens.Abierto Castillo, above, adds touches of paint to the ceiling before last week's grand opening of Magic Johnson's theater complex in Largo. At left, Keenan Proctor, from left, Darren Brown and Darrin Madison hang the Magic Theatres sign. The Bowie State University band, above, entertains the crowd before Magic Johnson's arrival for the grand opening. At left, concession worker Latkia Harris, 18, unpacks supplies. Magic Johnson, below, addresses the crowd while former county executive Wayne K. Curry, who helped initiate the talks to bring Johnson's theater to Prince George's, watches.