With more than 125,000 people expected for Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, heavy preparations are under way for what is annually the largest sporting event in Georgia.

Signs are being hung, logos being painted and tents being erected. All of the speedway¿s lush 870 acres of land will be in use for this gigantic racing weekend.

"When you look at the attendance just for the spring and fall races, that¿s equivalent to filling up the Georgia Dome several times, just for a single race," said Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council. "And that doesn¿t even include the support races at AMS."

Atlanta Motor Speedway¿s two marquee events, the spring and fall Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 NASCAR Winston Cup races, contribute an estimated $455 million to the Atlanta economy ¿ 51 percent of the city¿s total revenue derived from sports. That¿s larger than the Super Bowl, the Peach Bowl, and the Atlanta Braves, Hawks, Falcons and Thrashers combined.

"Atlanta Motor Speedway is obviously responsible for a huge part of the sports business in this town," Stokan said. "Race events bring people from all over the world to Atlanta, much more than the local teams and local events."

Fans from all 50 states and more than a dozen foreign countries are expected for this international event, which will be televised live on NBC beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

"The amount of attention Atlanta Motor Speedway attracts from people in every state and from all across the world is invaluable," Stokan said. "In addition to the many race fans and media members who come to Atlanta, there are millions more watching on TV. The Winston Cup events garner a tremendous amount of media, and that¿s the kind of attention you can¿t pay for."

Atlanta Motor Speedway¿s Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 has been recognized by several key organizations for its important role in promoting tourism, with the 2001 event being named the Top Festival in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society.

"People might be surprised at the amazing impact Atlanta Motor Speedway events have on the metro Atlanta area, given all that Atlanta has to offer," Atlanta Motor Speedway President and General Manager Ed Clark said. "We¿re very proud to be recognized as one of the key elements in Atlanta¿s highly successful and storied sports tradition."

This year¿s Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 kicks off with Georgia-Pacific Qualifying Night, followed by the Brawny 150 Presented by Pork The Other White Meat, a 150-lap shootout with the NASCAR Goody¿s Dash racers on the frontstretch quarter-mile Thunder Ring.

The action will continue with the Aaron¿s 312 Busch Series race and the drama of 12 extra miles. The weekend will culminate on Sunday with the running of the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 Winston Cup race, one of the final events of the season, when every point will be at a premium.

Great seats are available for the Oct. 24-26 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and weekend ticket packages start at just $69. For more information call the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, or call Ticketmaster.