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Paralyzed Rutgers player appears on SI cover

PARSIPPANY, N.J. - Paralyzed Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand will be featured on the front page of Sports Illustrated's year-end issue as the 2011 Moment of the Year.

For the first time in the magazine's 57-year history, fans made the choice.

LeGrand garnered the most votes from fans in 178 countries and led more than 6,000 users to post comments on Facebook. The defensive lineman beat out soccer star Lionel Messi, surfer Kelly Slater and Yankees captain Derek Jeter.

Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted his support for LeGrand.

LeGrand has been undergoing rehabilitation since he was paralyzed from the neck down making a tackle in a game against Army in 2010.

The cover photograph shows LeGrand in his motorized wheelchair leading his team onto the field against West Virginia. The photo was shot by Associated Press photographer Mel Evans.

LeGrand, who has made remarkable strides in his recovery, says he sat up for 35 seconds Monday with a therapist supporting his pelvis.

In a recent video for CBSSports.com, LeGrand offered viewers a candid glimpseof a typical day in his life: