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Mario Vazquez Drops Out of 'American Idol'

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Mario Vazquez Drops Out of 'American Idol'

Los Angeles (AP) -- "American Idol" finalist Mario Vazquez, citing "personal issues," withdrew from the talent competition Sunday, and producers of the Fox show called in the son of a baseball Hall of Famer as backup.

Fox bumped Nikko Smith, the son of baseball great Ozzie Smith, into Vazquez's spot because Smith got more votes than Travis Tucker when both were voted off Wednesday, the network said.

Now, viewers of the No. 1-rated series will get a chance to reconsider their votes as Smith and the other 11 finalists perform Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST. The show airs live to the East Coast and is tape-delayed on the West Coast.

Vazquez, 27, had been picked by many fans and three fellow finalists as a favorite to win the competition.

He told TV Guide's Web site that he dropped out to "take care of some personal issues with my family in New York. And with 'Idol' being a live show, it just wouldn't have worked out schedule-wise."

Vazquez said his departure had nothing to do with Fox or the show itself.

"It's just a personal family thing," he told the Web site. "My family is my top priority."

Smith, 22, of St. Louis, said in an interview before Sunday's announcement that he wasn't surprised to have been voted off.

"I wasn't as disappointed as people thought I would be because I've made it so far," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I'm happy to get all that exposure. Millions and millions of people watch the show, and hopefully somebody saw me and liked what they saw."

Following Fox's announcement, a relative of Smith told the Post-Dispatch the family had been asked not to speak about his callback. Smith was not available for comment.

Vazquez is not the first to leave "Idol" unexpectedly, though few have done so willingly. Last year, George Huff was called back to Los Angeles when contestant Donnie Williams was cited for DUI. And in 2003, three contestants were dropped by Fox, two for failing to disclose arrest records and another for posing on an adult-oriented Web site.

On the Net: www.idolonfox.com

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Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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