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Sheets, Stone a Part of World Games History

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RALEIGH — As North Carolina prepares to host the Special Olympics World Summer Games, athletes across the state will soon take their place on Team USA. Two of those athletes have been a part of Special Olympics since the very beginning and have seen a lot of changes.

Training for Special Olympics World Games competition is nothing new for Mike Stone; he has been several times before.

Same goes for Marty Sheets. As a matter of fact, they have been a part of Special Olympics since the very first World Games31 years ago.

"That was the biggest thrill, being at the first international games," he said.

Their scrapbooks tell the story. The year was 1968. The place was Chicago's Soldier Field. Seven hundred athletes competed, and most, like Sheets and Stone, had no idea what this was the beginning of, but they did know that they liked it.

"It felt great competing against one another, and it was so exciting that we got to meet other people from around the country," says Stone.

Few people knew how much growth would follow these first Games. Mike Stone looks back and remembers being one of only about 100 Special Olympics athletes inNorth Carolina. Now there are 24,000 in the state.

Mike Stone's mother helped get the program started.

"The progress we've made, not only in this being a sports program, but also Special Olympics has done so much to change the attitudes of people who had negative attitudes to begin with," says Alice Stone.

And that change in attitude is making people with mental retardation champions in sports and in life.

The Special Olympics World Games will happen June 26-July 4 across the Triangle.

You will see Mike Stone compete in golf; Marty Sheets will put his clubs away to compete in power lifting. Both athletes are from Greensboro.