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WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images
By Adam Fusfeld
There are thousands of pro athletes in the U.S. Whether nose guards or power forwards, welterweights or speed skaters, most of them are unknown to all but the most dedicated fans. But for every dozen or so of the anonymous jocks warming the bench or in the basement of the rankings, there is a star. They are the lucky men and women whose skill with a ball, puck, or their hands has made their names and faces known around the world. Some are more powerful than others—by that we mean they not only dominate their sport but also have the presence and personality to help sell billions of dollars' worth of goods and services every year. Such an athlete is Tiger Woods, who, despite ending the year embroiled in scandal, earned the No. 1 ranking in the 2010 Power 100. Woods earned an estimated $103 million in 2009, on and off the golf course, and, at least through last Thanksgiving, was among the most sought-after endorsers on the planet. While his ranking is likely to change in 2010, there are many other elite athletes who will continue to inhabit the influential intersection between sport and commerce. To see the 100 most powerful athletes, read on.