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NFL Stars Take Center Stage at Pro Bowl

The NFL’s best will be in the spotlight on Sunday, January 30 (7:00 PM ET, FOX) as the 2011 Pro Bowl kicks off Super Bowl Week.  The NFL All-Star Game returns to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii and will be the signature event to start the week leading up to Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in North Texas (Sunday, February 6, FOX). 
"It’s always an honor to be elected to the Pro Bowl," says New Orleans Saints linebacker JONATHAN VILMA.
For the second consecutive year, the Pro Bowl will be played the week before the Super Bowl.  The 2010 Pro Bowl on ESPN was watched by an average of 12.3 million viewers, the most for a Pro Bowl since 2000 (13.2 million viewers) and a 40 percent increase from the 2009 game (8.8 million viewers).  The 12.3 million viewers also marked the largest viewership for an All-Star game in any sport on cable television. 
Last year, the AFC defeated the NFC 41-34 at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida.  Houston Texans quarterback MATT SCHAUB threw two touchdown passes and was named the game’s MVP.  The 2011 game is the 41st between the AFC and NFC All-Stars with the all-time series tied 20-20. 
The 43-man teams are comprised of 21 offensive and 17 defensive players plus five specialists, including a long snapper.   The AFC All-Star team will be led by BILL BELICHICK and the coaches from the New England Patriots while MIKE SMITH and the Atlanta Falcons’ coaching staff will guide the NFC Pro Bowl squad. 
The Falcons lead the NFL with nine players selected to the 2011 Pro Bowl – defensive end JOHN ABRAHAM, tackle TYSON CLABO, tight end TONY GONZALEZ, cornerback BRENT GRIMES, fullback OVIE MUGHELLI, quarterback MATT RYAN, running back MICHAEL TURNER, special teamer ERIC WEEMS and wide receiver RODDY WHITE.  The Baltimore Ravens will have four starters on the AFC squad: Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Billy Cundiff. Ed Reed, who was selected as a starter, will not be playing due to injury.
The NFL is the only professional sports league that combines voting by fans, coaches and players in determining its All-Star teams.  The consensus vote of each group counts one-third towards the total.  Each team submits two ballots – those of the coach and the players with no one permitted to vote for a player on his own team.  This year, nearly 100 million fan votes were cast on, on wireless phones and on Facebook. 
Under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each player on the winning Pro Bowl team receives $45,000, while each player on the losing squad earns $22,500. The Pro Bowl’s return to Hawaii, where it had been held consecutively from 1980 to 2009, is part of a two-year agreement between the NFL and the state of Hawaii to play the 2011 and 2012 games there.