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by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Takes Place Before Tonight's Game

On July 4, 2006, the eyes of the world will focus on Coney Island for what is believed to be the 90th installment of the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest. Four-time world champion Takeru Kobayashi of Japan will look to make history as he defends his title against top eaters from around the globe.

In coming weeks, the finest eaters in the world will fight for one of 20 spots in the most celebrated sporting event of the year. According to archives, the contest has been held since 1916. This year, as in 2005, the event will be televised as a live, one-hour broadcast on ESPN.

Kobayashi, who secured his fifth straight win on July 4, 2005, by consuming 49 Nathan's Famous hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes, weighs only 144 pounds. His main competition this year is expected to come from Sonya Thomas, a 100-pound, 37-year-old Korean-born resident of Alexandria, VA, and Rich LeFevre, a 135-pound, 60-year-old resident of Henderson, NV.

Both LeFevre and Thomas hope to bring home to American soil the Coveted Mustard Yellow International Belt, competitive eating's greatest prize, akin to the Master's green jacket of golf or the Vince Lombardi trophy to football.

"The Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest continues to entertain and fascinate millions of people around the world," said Wayne Norbitz, president and COO of Nathan's Famous. "We are thrilled to offer this spirited event on America's most patriotic day."

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