Houston mayor says protests won't hurt Super Bowl activities

HOUSTON (AP) The Latest on the Super Bowl (all times local):

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11:05 p.m.

Kyle Shanahan sounds as if he's ready to work with John Lynch.

Shanahan, the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator, is expected to be hired as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers as soon as the Super Bowl is over.

In a surprising move, the 49ers hired Lynch as their general manager. It will be his first stint as front office executive, having worked as a broadcaster since his long playing career ended.

''John is a guy I've built a relationship with over the years,'' Shanahan told the media during Super Bowl opening night.

''He's a guy who lives and dies football. Very smart guy who really wanted to get back into it.''

Shanahan and Lynch are likely to have a power-sharing arrangement similar to the one in Atlanta between general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn.

Shanahan has already interviewed twice with the 49ers and is the only candidate remaining for the job.

Lynch played for Shanahan's father, Mike, when he was coaching the Denver Broncos.

''John is a guy I have a lot of respect for as a man, as a person and also from his football knowledge,'' Kyle Shanahan said.

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10:35 p.m.

So, Dont'a Hightower, who's the better coach: Nick Saban or Bill Belichick?

No way Hightower was touching that one.

''That's your call, bro,'' the linebacker shot back during Super Bowl opening night. ''I love `em both. I've been winning with both sides.''

Hightower was part of two national championship teams while playing for Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Two years ago, he was with Belichick for New England's run to the Super Bowl.

Now, at age 26, Hightower has a shot at yet another title.

Talk about hitting the coaching jackpot.

''Obviously, they each have their own twists,'' Hightower said. ''But you can't go wrong with either guy.''

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10:30 p.m.

Chris Long has a chance to even things up with his father.

In his ninth NFL season, Long finally made the playoffs after signing with the New England Patriots.

On Sunday, he'll play in the Super Bowl, becoming one of the rare father-son combinations to make it to the big game.

His father, Howie Long, starred on the Los Angeles' Raiders championship team in 1983 and is now in the Hall of Fame.

''There's no catching him. He's got the gold jacket,'' Chris Long said, referring to the fashion prize that goes to all Canton inductees.

''But this is one way to kind of even the score, if we both had some jewelry.

''And,'' the defensive end added with a smile, ''my playoff to Super Bowl ratio is better than his. Every time I've been in the playoffs, I've been in the Super Bowl. So you have to factor that as well, which I would argue makes me better than him.''

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8:55 p.m.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu wants no part of talking about his religious beliefs as he prepares for his first Super Bowl appearance.

Sanu, a practicing Muslim, said at Monday's opening night that though President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigration for seven majority Muslim countries was ''a very tough situation'' and ''hard for me to talk about right now,'' that he prayed the country and world would ''unite as one.''

He said he is trying to place his focus on football instead.

Sanu said his mother is travelling to the game from Sierra Leone, but is not one of the countries affected by the executive order.

Sanu is in his first season with the Falcons after joining them in free agency. He had 59 catches for 653 yards in the regular season and added nine catches and two touchdowns in the playoffs.

- Kyle Hightower reporting.

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7:55 p.m.

Daxton Tinker arrived at Minute Maid Park nearly three hours before media night, and the 17-year-old from Sulphur, Louisiana, is enjoying a prime seat perched on the edge of the field down what is usually the first base line.

Tinker had a big smile on his face and a small radio tucked in his right ear listening to interviews of his favorite player, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. He held tight to a football, hoping he gets a chance for an autograph from Jones.

He came to Houston with five others for the NFL's kickoff event to Super Bowl week. Tinker says he feels as if he got lucky to get so close and that it definitely was worth it.

- Teresa M. Walker reporting.

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7:14 p.m.

Super Bowl's media night is underway with the Atlanta Falcons answering questions first at Houston's Minute Maid Park.

The Falcons came out as a unit - no personal introductions like the Panthers and Broncos did last year - and quarterback Matt Ryan opened the discussion answering questions from NFL Network's Deion Sanders - a former Falcon.

This is the second year that the event once known as media day was moved to prime time.

This year, instead of a basketball or hockey arena, it was moved to the Astros' home field, meaning there was a lot more room for journalists to move around from player to player.

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2 p.m.

Randy Allen of Highland Park High School in Dallas has been selected as the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year.

The award was created to honor high school football coaches who demonstrate a commitment to player health and safety, and the integrity, achievement and leadership exemplified by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.

Nominated by the Cowboys, Allen was one of two finalists from a group of coaches nominated by NFL teams. As the national Shula Award winner, Allen will receive $25,000 from the NFL Foundation, $15,000 of which will go to his school's football program. He will be a guest of the league this week in Houston and will attend NFL Honors, the two-hour prime-time TV special during which The Associated Press will announce its individual award recipients, including MVP.

Allen has coached at Highland Park for 18 years and recently led the Scots to a 5A Division 1 state championship. It marked the Scots' second state championship under Allen, who coached current Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to a state title in 2005, and currently coaches the grandchildren of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

''Randy is someone that I respect and admire greatly,'' Jones says. ''He is a man who understands the fundamental responsibility of being a high school football coach, and that is to build character and shape young lives. He teaches integrity and life lessons as well as he does the X's and O's, and he is very successful builder of character.''

The runner-up was Green Bay nominee Steve Jones, head coach at Kimberly (Wisc.) High School, who will receive $15,000 from the NFL Foundation, $10,000 of which will go to his school's football program.

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says demonstrations during Super Bowl week won't prevent fans from having a good time.

Turner said Monday that demonstrations such as the one Sunday outside Super Bowl headquarters with protesters opposing President Trump's travel restrictions from some Muslim countries are ''about people exercising their constitutional right to voice their opinion.''

Calling Houston ''the most diverse city in the country,'' Turner noted ''we can do that and have good football at the same time.''

Turner stressed that security would not be an issue and that the city has worked for four years preparing to host the game for the first time since 2004.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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