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Pro Bowl will make return to Hawaii week before Super Bowl XLV

HONOLULU -- The Pro Bowl will be played before the Super Bowl when it returns to Honolulu next year.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority and the NFL announced Tuesday that the game will be at Aloha Stadium on Jan. 30, the Sunday before the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

The Pro Bowl had historically been played in Honolulu the week after the Super Bowl, but was changed when the all-star game moved to Miami this year.

Frank Supovitz, the NFL's senior vice president of events, said playing the Pro Bowl before the big game generated more excitement and interest and was a good kick off to Super Bowl week.

Ratings were up for the AFC-NFC matchup that was televised on ESPN. It was watched by an average of 12.3 million viewers, the most since 2000. That's up 40 percent from the 2009 Pro Bowl on NBC, which drew 8.8 million viewers when the event was held after the Super Bowl.

This year's game was in a later time slot, when more people watch TV, and competed against the Grammys on CBS, which attracted 25.8 million viewers, the most since 2004.

However, one drawback of playing the Pro Bowl first is not having any Super Bowl players.

About 40 percent of those originally selected didn't play in Miami. That included seven Indianapolis Colts and seven New Orleans Saints because they were preparing for the title game.

Besides ratings, the Miami experiment also produced more ticket sales because of the larger venue and media coverage. But several players have said they preferred playing in the islands.

And cash-strapped Hawaii, which heavily depends on tourism as its economic engine, is eager to say "aloha" again.

Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said the Pro Bowl has been a part of Hawaii for more than 30 years and the state welcomes the game back.

"We know how much the Pro Bowl means to our residents, the players and to the thousands of fans from the mainland who enjoy visiting our state for the game," he said in a statement. "The Pro Bowl is a great investment for our state with both economic and community benefits."

Hawaii is paying $4 million per game to host the Pro Bowl in 2011 and '12. The site for 2013 and beyond hasn't been determined.

The tourism agency estimated the 2009 game at Aloha Stadium accounted for $28.6 million in visitor spending, generated $2.9 million in state taxes and attracted 18,000 visitors.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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