Earvin “Magic” Johnson retired from basketball again yesterday — this time for good–not because the AIDS virus sapped his strength or talent, but because it struck fear among fellow players.

“It has become obvious that the various controversies surrounding my return are taking away from both basketball as a sport and the larger issue of living with HIV for me and the many people affected,” Johnson said in a statement four days before the start of the 1992-93 National Basketball Assn. season.

After talking it over with his wife, Cookie, and his family, Johnson said, “I decided I will retire–for good–from the (Los Angeles) Lakers.”

He didn’t elaborate on the controversies, but his agent, Lou Rosen, said he was referring to public comments by other NBA players that competing against him put them at risk of contracting the HIV virus.

The AIDS virus is transmitted through blood, semen and some other bodily fluids.

But several NBA stars, including fellow Olympic team member Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, said they were concerned about playing with Johnson for health reasons.

“It is a physical game and you do get kicked and scratched,” Malone said yesterday. “I do have concerns, just like anybody would have. It’s not a thing of kicking a man when he’s down.”

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