Europe's new soccer champions returned to a heroes' welcome yesterday as hundreds of thousands of partying fans lined the streets in Athens to greet the Greek national team, and Greece's spirits soared five weeks before the Aug. 13-29 Olympics.
Supporters -- still hoarse from wild night-long celebrations -- roared "Bring on Brazil" as the European Championship winners headed toward the all-marble Panathenian Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.
"This is a great moment of joy," said Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis, who traveled to Lisbon to watch Greece beat Portugal, 1-0, in Sunday's final. "I am sure this [feeling] will peak at the Olympic Games."
More than 100,000 people in and around the stadium sang the national anthem as they awaited the Greek team and Coach Otto Rehhagel, a German, on a bus followed by thousands of motorcycles blaring their horns. . . .
Fearing for his safety, Bernd Stange said he has resigned as coach of Iraq's national soccer team.
Stange had a contract with the Iraqi Soccer Federation that ran until 2006. The German said he was warned his life would be in danger if he returned to Iraq from Jordan, where he has been since April 8. Stange was hired in November 2002.
* BASKETBALL: The Atlanta Hawks have reached an agreement with Detroit assistant Mike Woodson to become their new coach, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported on its Web site last night. Woodson agreed to a four-year deal to replace Terry Stotts, who was fired May 6.
The 47-year-old will become the 10th coach of the Hawks since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1968. The Hawks finished 28-54 last season, missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year. . . .
The Charlotte Bobcats, concerned that top draft pick Emeka Okafor will be tired from too much summer basketball when the NBA season begins, have left him off of their summer league team.
Okafor, the No. 2 overall pick, has gone to Los Angeles to work with a personal trainer in preparation for the Olympics. . . .
Marianne Stanley, who coached the Washington Mystics in 2002 and '03, was hired by the New York Liberty as an assistant coach.
* BASEBALL: The St. Louis fan who returned Ken Griffey Jr.'s 500th home run got another big thank you yesterday.
Griffey showered Mark Crummley of Mount Carmel, Ill., with gifts after he returned the historic ball June 20, including an autographed game-used jersey and other Reds-related memorabilia. Yesterday, Griffey gave Crummley four expenses-paid trips to Houston for the All-Star Game.
* OLYMPICS: A former Olympic wrestler who crashed his sport utility vehicle into a crowded terminal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida was hospitalized for psychological evaluation.
Alexis Vila, 33, was taken into custody after he ran from his SUV following Sunday's crash. He suffered minor scrapes. No one else was injured. The SUV slammed into a Southeast Airlines ticket counter and smashed through a wall before stopping.
It was unclear if Vila, a native of Cuba, had been charged.
At the Atlanta Olympics eight years ago, Vila won the bronze medal for Cuba at 105.5 pounds. After winning a gold medal at the 1997 Pan American Games, Vila defected.
* BROADCASTING: Roger Federer's win over Andy Roddick for a second straight Wimbledon title drew a 3.6 overnight rating Sunday on NBC. It was the best overnight rating for a Wimbledon men's final since 2000 -- the last time an American was in the match -- when Pete Sampras won his seventh Wimbledon title, and the overnight rating was 5.0.
Maria Sharapova's upset of two-time defending champion Serena Williams in the women's final Saturday produced a 3.9 overnight rating. That was down from a 4.0 in 2003, when Williams beat her sister, Venus.
* OBITUARY: Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward died yesterday at a hospice in Anaheim, Calif., Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials said. At 83, Ward was the oldest living winner of the race. He won in 1959 and 1962, during a six-year span in which he finished no worse than fourth.
-- From News Services