WE'RE STILL ON a Cliff Lee high so we're only reporting positive news today.

First up is Jimmie Johnson, the five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, who made a pit stop at the Collinswood Language Academy in Charlotte yesterday to announce he is funding the building of a playground and basketball court at the school

It's just one of 13 schools in three states that will benefit from education grants given by Johnson's charitable foundation and Lowe's, his top sponsor.

"I think we had like $60 million in grant [applications] that were sent to us," Johnson told the Associated Press. "There's no way you can fund that, but you just sit there and wish you could . . . We're just happy to help make a difference.

Johnson said he enjoyed mingling with the students.

"It's one thing to go out and raise the money and then have an awards ceremony and pass stuff out. But to actually see the kids, interact with them, that's the best part of fund-raising."

_ Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari is among those nominated in the sports categories for the inaugural United Nations Nongovernment Organization Positive Peace Awards.

The awards were created to honor businesses, schools, communities, sports teams, athletes, coaches and broadcast events that accentuate the word "positive."

Calipari was nominated by Samaritan's Feet, a charity that provides shoes to the needy around the world. Calipari and his staff have been appearing in bare feet during the national anthem before games to promote the charity.

Men's basketball coaches Ron Hunter, of IUPUI and Scott Nagy, of South Dakota State, were also nominated by Samaritan's Feet.

Other sporting types nominated are former Sixer Dikembe Mutombo, in the professional athlete category (nominated by Athletes for a Better World), and Tamika Catchings of the WNBA's Indiana Fever (nominated by Indy Parks & Recreation-Washington Park Family Center).

The winners in the sports categories will be announced later this month.

- Tom Mahon

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