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Claymania Spreading At Fever Pitch

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It apparently has not been a detriment to

Clay Aiken

to finish second to Ruben Studdard in the "American Idol" competition. Three recent news items show that Aiken continues to be a star on the rise and that his popularity has continued to grow when many people thought it might begin to wane.

Not only is a record crowd expected at Saturday's Raleigh Christmas Parade because of Aiken's appearance as Grand Marshal and guest commentator for WRAL, but Aiken will be protected by four Raleigh police officers in addition to his regular bodyguard.

Then, in December, Aiken will attend what could be the most-watched graduation in the history of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. People who want to see it will need a ticket.

Aiken will receive his UNCC diploma Dec. 20 in the school's basketball arena. For only the second time in the school's history, graduation guests must have tickets to get in. Each ticket will be printed with a bar code and be scanned at the door to prevent the use of counterfeits.

Aiken has asked not to perform at the ceremony, and he has declined a seat on the stage. He said he wants to sit with his fellowstudents.

Aiken is finishing an independent study course at UNCC, his last requirement toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in special education.

The third piece of big news regarding Aiken this week is that he has been named one of


magazine's sexiest men of the year.

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