Lance Armstrong has barely paused since his inspiring victory in the Tour de France. Yesterday, when he saw the size of the crowds welcoming him home, he finally was stopped in his tracks.

A clearly startled Armstrong was greeted by raucous, cheering New Yorkers four days after winning the grueling race.

"I had no idea how much America, how much the communities around America were following the Tour de France," he said. "To see the turnout and the response in the sports world and in the media, it makes my day."

Armstrong, who overcame an advanced form of testicular cancer two years ago before winning cycling's most prestigious race, spent the day being interviewed on talk shows, touring the New York Stock Exchange and making a promotional visit to Nike's Manhattan store.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani proclaimed yesterday "Lance Armstrong Day" in New York.

And the impact of his victory still hasn't sunk in.

"We have to try and do this every year," Armstrong said. "I still can hardly believe I won the race." . . .

Cable television's Outdoor Life Network said it bought the rights to show the Tour de France in the United States, in a multimillion-dollar pact.

Outdoor Life outbid Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, which has carried the bicycle race nine of the past 10 years, for the contract that gives it exclusive television rights beginning in 2001.

Golf

Inkster One Off Lead

Juli Inkster wasted no time putting herself into position to win her third consecutive major championship.

After a wedge into tap-in range for birdie on the first hole and a 15-foot eagle putt on the third, Inkster cruised through the first round of the du Maurier Classic in Priddis, Alberta, with a 4-under 68 that left her one stroke out of the lead.

Patti Rizzo, winless the past 10 years, made seven birdies in her round of 67 and was tied for the lead with Rosie Jones, who birdied three of the last four holes. . . .

Kevin Sutherland, Mike Springer, Tom Scherrer and Skip Kendall shot 63s to share the first-round lead in the Greater Hartford Open in Cromwell, Conn.

The field took advantage of a windless day and a well-watered TPC at River Highlands course to come within one shot of the course record. It was the lowest first-round score since the 6,820-yard course was redesigned in 1991. . . .

Jane Fitzgerald of Kensington won the Middle Atlantic Golf Association's women's amateur championship at Tides Inn in Irvington, Va. Fitzgerald, the 1992 champion, shot a two-day total of 144 to win by nine strokes.

Soccer

Fusion Wins in Shootout

Jay Heaps's goal in the seventh shootout round gave the Miami Fusion a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Mutiny in a Major League Soccer match in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

After Tampa Bay's Eric Quill and Miami's Welton converted in the first five rounds of the regulation shootout rounds, the Mutiny's Josh Keller and the Fusion's Tyrone Marshall scored in the following elimination round.

When a shot by Tampa Bay's Chad McCarty sailed over the Fusion goal, Heaps capitalized on his shot, beating Tampa Bay goalkeeper Andy Kirk.

Basketball

One Up on Jordan

Michael Jordan's lack of interest turned into the opportunity of a lifetime for Atlanta businessman Ray Wooldridge. Capitalizing on Jordan's decision to abandon attempts to buy a share of the Charlotte Hornets, Wooldridge became a minority owner of the NBA franchise.

The deal calls for George Shinn, formerly the sole owner of the team, to remain the managing partner. Wooldridge has the right to buy up to 50 percent of the team within two years.

Neither Shinn nor Wooldridge would reveal financial terms of the deal. But team officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was worth between $75 million and $80 million. . . .

Rudy Tomjanovich has discovered the benefits of a good night's sleep. The Houston Rockets' coach, forced to take almost a month's rest to recover from extreme physical exhaustion, has resumed his coaching duties with the Rockets, who are playing in the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City. . . .

As part of their "Contract With the Fans" program, the Washington Wizards will hold their second annual free intrasquad scrimmage at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 at MCI Center. . . .

The Minnesota Timberwolves gave Coach and General Manager Flip Saunders a multiyear contract extension, after he led the team to its third straight playoff appearance.

Boxing

Pearson Halts Smith

Capitol Heights 130-pounder Lamont Pearson improved to 7-0-1 by stopping Washington's Leon Smith (7-2) at 2 minutes 30 seconds of the third round in the main event of a four-bout card at Glenarden Community Center. Pearson floored Smith with a straight right midway through the first and Smith never recovered.