Bubba's stand

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BUBBA Smith had become almost as famous for ripping the tops off beer cans as for tearing into the opposition on the gridiron. Maybe more so. But the perception built up in Smith, himself a nondrinker, that he was subverting the lives of an awful lot of innocent people. So he gave up the beer commercial contract. As Smith told it to Los Angeles Times reporter Scott Ostler, Bubba got into the beer commercial lineup when a knee injury cut short his playing field career and he sank into a slump. For a black former athlete, especially one as big as Bubba, making a living was tough.

``I loved doing the commercials,'' Smith says, ``but I didn't like the effect it was having on a lot of little people. . . . Kids would come up to me on the street and recite lines from my commercials, verbatim. . . . It was scary. Kids start to listen to things you say, you want to tell 'em something that is the truth.''

Smith, trimmed down and in shape, has other things going for him now, movie and TV acting roles -- hardly a loss for shifting his stance from the butt of jokes to a man of principle.

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