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Everybody Loves Emmitt Smith

Everyone's talking about Emmitt Smith these days. But they aren't discussing how the NFL's career leading rusher outmaneuvered tacklers on the field.

The chatter is about how Smith's hip-swaying and smooth glides on the dance floor have gotten him to this week's finale on the ABC celebrity dance contest, "Dancing With the Stars."

"I think he's just fabulous!" said Ann Williams, 69, founder of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre. "There's no way that he could be in the finals without having the same stick-to-it-iveness and work ethic he had as an athlete."

There's no doubt many will be watching the showdown between Smith and partner Cheryl Burke and actor Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sports bars and dance studios throughout North Texas have held "Emmitt-watching parties" that demonstrate the appeal has cut across cultural and class lines.

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That's because dancing is something most people have thought about and wish they could do, dance instructors and academics say.

Even in the "princess dreams of little girls growing up, the prince always knows how to dance," said Rita Kirk, professor of communication at Southern Methodist University.

At Skillz Salon in Plano, Texas, where many black professional athletes go, conversation among clients and staff regularly turns to Smith.

"He's been doing really well. He's a phenomenal dancer," said barber Sedrick Fort, 32.

The buzz has even motivated more men to take up dancing, said Toni Musgrow, 38, who manages IDance3 studio in Plano, where Smith and Burke practiced.

"As one male customer told me just the other day: 'Emmitt makes dancing look manly.'"

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