Almanac: Magic Johnson

Los Angeles Lakers Earvin Magic Johnson passes the ball to a teammate as Philadelphia 76ers Clarence Weatherspoon and Laker Sam Perkins look on, during the first quarter of an NBA exhibition game, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 1992, Inglewood, Calif.
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

(CBS News) And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: September 29th, 1992, 21 years ago today . . . the day Magic Johnson told Los Angeles basketball fans just what they wanted to hear: "I'm coming back to the Lakers and I'm playing again."

It was a dramatic reversal from the announcement he had made the previous November, one that had stunned people in the sports world and beyond:

"Because of the HIV virus that I have obtained, I will have to retire from the Lakers."

One of the game's greatest players ever, Magic Johnson was poised to begin his 13th season with the Lakers when a physical revealed in the fall of 1991 that he was infected with HIV.

At a time of lingering fear and ignorance about the virus, Johnson's candor won him widespread support, including from an old Boston Celtics rival turned friend.

In a "Sunday Morning" interview four years ago, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird looked back on a phone call with our Jim Axelrod:

Johnson: "The first call I got was Larry Bird. First call. He's cryin' and just checking up on me, you know?"
Axelrod: "You hung up the phone, and . . . ?"
Byrd: "Couldn't sleep, 'cause at that time you thought it was a death sentence."

Shooting stars: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (11/01/09)

But as all the world knows, Magic Johnson has proven that fear wrong.

Magic Johnson raises his arms after the U.S. team was awarded the Olympic gold medal for winning the men's basketball finals against Croatia Aug. 9, 1992, in Barcelona. DIMITRI MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

True to his word, he took no part in the 1991-92 regular season, but he did play in the All-Star Game . . . winning MVP honors . . . and he was also a member of the U.S. "Dream Team" at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

And though he reversed himself again and didn't play in the 1992-93 season after all, Magic Johnson wasn't through with basketball just yet.

He coached the Lakers briefly in 1994, and finally did make his return as a player for a time early in 1996, before retiring for good.

Today at age 54, Magic Johnson is very much alive -- not to mention a successful businessman with a financial stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A chain of movie theaters bears his name, as does the foundation he created to promote HIV/AIDS awareness.

Former L.A. Lakers Earvin "Magic" Johnson stands in front of the 12-screen movie theatre that he built and financed during the theatre's grand opening July 10, 1995. DAN GROSHONG/AFP/Getty Images

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