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Torch Singer

Hometown music star Aretha Franklin lit a large cauldron at Comerica Park with the Olympic torch Sunday night as she finished her segment of the torch relay.

Several hours earlier after a brief ceremony on the steps of the State Capitol, Grand Rapids resident Dave Perron kicked off Michigan's portion of the relay.

About 200 state residents are carrying the flame as a part of its 65-day journey across the country.

Hundreds of Flint residents lined area roads Sunday to watch about 17 runners carry the torch. Others crowded the downtown area for a celebration of the Olympic spirit, waving flags and watching as a cauldron was lit.

Each runner carried the torch two-tenths of a mile, beginning in Lansing and heading through Okemos, Flint, Royal Oak, Warren and Detroit.

Sunday's run ended with the ceremony at Comerica Park, where the Queen of Soul sang a song titled "Carry the Flame," the story of a boy and girl and their quest of Olympic dreams.

"This is monumental," said Franklin. "The Olympics are an American and world institution. I am delighted to be asked to do this."

Monday, the torch will pass through Garden City, Livonia and Ann Arbor before heading into Indiana.

The list of runners includes cancer survivors, Olympic medalists, media personalities, sports stars, corporate executives and high school students.

Many runners say the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks give this year's torch relay a special poignancy.

"What the Olympic torch symbolizes is bringing people together," said state schools Superintendent Tom Watkins who is helping run the torch through Flint.

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, another of the runners, has said he's honored to play a small role in healing the country with the tradition.

"This year, of all years, to do my part, my little, little quarter-mile piece of the country, is a pretty neat feeling," said Izzo.

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