MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings rookie safety Harrison Smith has been fined $21,000 by the NFL for a hit on San Diego Chargers receiver Mike Willie on Aug. 24.

The hefty fine sends a stern message to the first-round draft pick, who has already established a reputation as a hard-nosed, big hitter. Smith was penalized for the hit against Willie late in the third preseason game.

Smith was drafted out of Notre Dame to add some playmaking and a harder edge to the back end of the defense. The Vikings have been searching for an intimidating presence at that position for years, and Smith gained a reputation for being willing to get physical even against teammates in practice during training camp while competing for a starting job.

Truex, NAPA sign on for another 3 years with MWR

HAMPTON, Ga. — In these uncertain economic times, a sponsorship announcement was enough to bring out NASCAR’s president.

Mike Helton was on hand Friday when Martin Truex and primary sponsor NAPA agreed to a three-year contract extension with Michael Waltrip Racing.

“Thank you for believing in our sport,” Helton told a top NAPA official who was on hand for the announcement.

The team has made dramatic improvement this season, going into Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway fifth in the Sprint Cup standings and looking to give Waltrip a spot in the Chase for the championship for the first time as a car owner. The team’s other full-time driver, Clint Bowyer, is sixth in the points and also positioned to lock up a Chase berth.

NAPA has a long history sponsoring NASCAR and decided to stay on board in a major role, rather than a part-time deal that would’ve required Waltrip to seek additional backing. The announcement was good news for NASCAR, which has watched some of its biggest teams struggle to land full-season sponsorships since the economic downturn.

Phillies’ Rollins returns to lineup after benching

ATLANTA — Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins apologized to manager Charlie Manuel and returned to the lineup Friday night, a day after the former NL MVP was benched in the middle of a game for failing to hustle.

Rollins flied out while leading off for the Phillies at Atlanta.

Manuel pulled Rollins on Thursday after a pair of baserunning mistakes in the sixth inning against the New York Mets. The three-time All-Star didn’t run hard on a popup that was dropped for an error and later was caught in a rundown.

It marked the second time Rollins’ lack of hustle was called into question. After a game at Miami earlier this year, Manuel summoned Rollins to his office for jogging down the line on a grounder.

Though he didn’t bench Rollins after the first blunder, Manuel had seen enough on Thursday.

“I don’t want to try to have to make Jimmy run,” Manuel said. “I want Jimmy to want to run, and I want Jimmy to want to run because you’re supposed to run and you should run. That’s what baseball’s all about.”

Uecker statue dedicated at Miller Park

MILWAUKEE — A statue of longtime Milwaukee Brewers radio broadcaster Bob Uecker has been dedicated outside Miller Park.

The popular Uecker was joined by former teammate Hank Aaron and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for the event Friday night before the Brewers played Pittsburgh.

Uecker is the fourth person to have a statue outside the main gates at the ballpark. Aaron, Selig and Hall of Famer Robin Yount also have them.

Uecker was a light hitter in the majors, batting .200 for the Milwaukee Braves and other teams as a catcher over six seasons.

He has been in the Brewers’ radio booth since 1971.

Pettitte goes off mound for 1st time since injury

NEW YORK — Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte threw off a mound Friday for the first time since going on the disabled list June 28 with a broken left ankle.

Pettitte said he felt really good while making about 20 pitches before New York’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. The 40-year-old left-hander is trying to return before the end of the regular season so he could be included in a potential playoff rotation.

The three-time All-Star, baseball’s career leader in postseason wins (19) and starts (42), is scheduled to be examined Saturday by team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad.

Pettitte has been sidelined since he was hit by a line drive June 27 against Cleveland. His ankle swelled up last month in Seattle while he was trying to rehab, delaying his recovery.

After ending a one-year retirement in March, Pettitte is 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in nine starts this season.

A-Rod grounds out in first plate appearance

TAMPA, Fla. — New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez grounded out to short in his first plate appearance since going on the disabled list on July 25 with a fractured left hand. He led off and started as designated hitter for the Tampa Yankees in a Class A game against the Lakeland Flying Tigers.

Rodriguez suffered the injury after being hit by a pitch by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez on July 24. Rodriguez is expected to play at third base for Tampa on Saturday and may rejoin the Yankees on Monday when they visit St. Petersburg for a series against the Tampa Bay Rays.