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Villopoto's supercross win in Anaheim marks strong comeback from leg injury

January 9, 2011 | 11:55 am

With a series-high seven wins last year, Ryan Villopoto was battling for his first big-league supercross title when he found disaster.

At the race in St. Louis, Villopoto suffered a broken right leg that abruptly ended his season, and Ryan Dungey went on to win the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series championship.

But after multiple surgeries, rehabilitation and being sidelined for nearly five months, Villopoto made it clear Saturday night that he's again healthy by winning this year's series opener before a sold-out crowd of 45,050 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

"This is a nice way to start out the season," said Villopoto, a 22-year-old Kawasaki rider from the Seattle area who won by four seconds over second-place finisher Dungey. "I hope I can start putting together some more wins and a championship this year."

James Stewart, a two-time champion who also is returning after an injury prematurely ended his 2010 season, charged back from a 12th-place spot on the first lap Saturday night but finished third on his Yamaha, well behind Villopoto.

"Horrible start," Stewart said, adding that he "almost went down a few times" trying to catch the leaders. "I tried my best to get up there. Once I got into third, I tried to make up some time on Ryan [Dungey] but ran out of laps."

The series' next race is Saturday in Phoenix, then the series moves to its debut race at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22.

--Jim Peltz