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All-Star Game reportedly Orlando bound

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Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NBA All-Star Game will be played in Orlando in 2012 at the Magic's new arena, two people familiar with the decision told the Associated Press. It will be the second time Orlando has hosted the game.

Those familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity because the league has not released the information. They say the announcement will be made at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

NBA commissioner David Stern had long promised to take the marquee event to the Magic's new Amway Center, which opens next season. Stern is expected to attend Tuesday's event before Orlando opens its Eastern Conference semifinal against Atlanta.

Orlando also held the All-Star game in 1992, when Magic Johnson returned to basketball to win the Most Valuable Player award after his retirement and acknowledgment he was HIV positive.

The NBA clearly likes to take its midwinter break in sunshine. Phoenix had the All-Star game last year and Dallas was this season's host. Los Angeles gets the game a record fifth time in 2011. Stern has said warm-weather sites in major tourist destinations appeal to the NBA's owners and international broadcasters.

There also had been talk of holding the game overseas, perhaps in London ahead of the 2012 Olympics. But an international city will have to wait at least another year.

The Magic's new arena and the team's return to prominence clearly worked in Orlando's favor. The Magic returned to the NBA finals last year, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games, and had the league's second-best record behind Cleveland this season.

Topping the excitement of the last All-Star game in Orlando could be tough. Even though he hadn't played all season, Johnson drew more votes than any player for the West team in the 1992 game. He chose to honor fans' wishes by playing, and he didn't disappoint.

Johnson's showdowns with Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan stirred the crowd, drawing tears from fans in a night filled with emotions. Johnson had 25 points and nine assists to help the West roll to a 153-113 victory.

Johnson's dazzling return not only reminded fans of the game's greatest stars, it gave others with HIV hope that they also could persevere with a disease that was considered at the time to be a quick death sentence.