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CNBC's Most Influential Sports Tweeters of 2009

There's little doubt that Twitter has changed the world of sports reporting and sports fan interaction in 2009. As we've cautioned with the other Twitter rankings we've released in the past, how many followers a person has is just one part of the equation in determining the most relevant tweeters in sports this year.

So, instead of putting it into a particular order, we are ranking the most relevant tweeters by category.

Athletes

Shaquille O'Neal ( @THE_REAL_SHAQ): The Cleveland Cavaliers center has used Twitter to interact with his fans better than any other athlete. He has given away tickets and continues to answer tweets with great frequency. O'Neal has clearly earned his 2.7 million followers.

Stewart Cink ( @stewartcink): Cink achieved greater relevancy through Twitter than any other athlete this year and while we're frankly a bit disappointed with the quality of his recent tweets, Cink's work on the social networking site after he won the British Open was commendable.

Lance Armstrong ( @lancearmstrong): His courageous fight against cancer and the foundation he established has enabled Lance Armstrong to be in the conversation more than every summer during the Tour De France. But Armstrong's great use of Twitter extends his brand well. His work during this year's Tour truly made us feel like insiders.

Chad Ochocinco ( @OGOchoCinco): There's nothing like a great trash talker on Twitter and Ochocinco is the tops. He loves posting goofy pictures, which his nearly 600,000 followers love.

Dwight Howard ( @DwightHoward): Howard probably had the best athlete giveaway on Twitter, providing his one millionth follower with an all expenses paid trip to the Magic's home opener.

Journalists

Bill Simmons ( @sportsguy33): ESPN's Simmons has proven that he can be just as effective in 140 characters or less as he can in his humungous ESPN columns. While tweets from Simmons take on a heavy basketball focus, it's his humorous tweets that get more pick up around the Twitterverse.

Adam Schefter ( @Adam_Schefter): Schefter was switching from the NFL Network to ESPN just around the time it appeared like an ESPN edict would somewhat restrict Twitter use by its reporters. But that edict was overplayed and Schefter's managed to strike a balance by providing insightful commentary and still breaking news on ESPN.com and Twitter.

Pete Thamel ( @PeteThamelNYT): This New York Times reporter has always been solid, but his work on the Urban Meyer situation towards the end of the year made him a must follow.

Miscellaneous

Mark Titus ( @clubtrillion): We first discovered the blog of Mark Titus a couple years ago and interviewed him at the Final Four that year. Here's his deal. He rides the bench for Ohio State, but his comedic take on life is even better than his basketball game.

Evan Morgenstein ( @sportsagentevan): If you are looking for the craziest man on Twitter, we've found him. There's literally no censoring this Olympic sports agent.

Eric Stangel ( @EricStangel): Imagine if you had a chance to hear David Letterman tell jokes only about sports every night. Well, follow Stangel and you'll get what you dreamed of. Stangel is a huge sports fan and the head writer and executive producer of the Late Show.

Justin Gimelstob ( @justingimelstob): This former pro tennis player has managed to pull in more than 7,000 followers thanks to his great sense of humor.

Pete Carroll ( @petecarroll): Coaches flocked to Twitter this summer, but the USC head football coach is the leader in the clubhouse. He better watch his back though. Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh ( @JimHarbaugh) is out to beat him in the Twitter game too.

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