Earvin 'Magic' Johnson Jr. invited to appear in Palmetto

MANATEE -- Retired basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. has been invited to come to Palmetto next month, a Manatee County commissioner said Tuesday.

"It's a great opportunity to promote Manatee County from an economic development standpoint," said Commissioner Charles B. Smith, who is trying to arrange an appearance between Feb. 23-28. "Also urban redevelopment, investment opportunities, all those things keeps the door open."

Smith said he is working with Operation People for Peace Inc., based in Atlanta and Pensacola.

Arthur Rocker Sr., chairman and founder of Operation People for Peace, confirmed he and Smith are working together to arrange a Johnson visit.

Operation People for Peace advocates for the underserved, underrepresented, and disenfranchised, goals similar to those of the Magic Johnson Foundation, which is dedicated to empowering the underserved, according to the respective websites.

Rocker, reached by phone Monday, said other celebrities would join Johnson should the visit materialize.

Johnson, 55, a Hall of Fame point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, played 13 seasons played in the NBA. In

1991, he announced he had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and soon retired from the sport.

In 1992, he won an Olympic gold medal, and in 2002, was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

Among the most famous African-Americans, he is a well-known investor, motivational speaker and philanthropist.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.