5 Atlanta sports moments to remember for 2018

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Atlanta United fans were on hand for the team's first MLS Cup victory parade Monday morning in Atlanta.

2018 was a year of memorable highs and lows in Atlanta sports. We hosted a championship and finally celebrated one of our own. Here are five of the year’s sports highlights:

We are the champions

After 23 years, Atlanta finally got its first professional sports championship. In just their second season, Atlanta United captured the MLS Cup in December with a thrilling 2-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Along the way, the Five Stripes captivated the city. The team, which set numerous attendance records, missed out on the Supporters' Shield — given to the team with the most regular season points — but collected various trophies. Forward Josef Martinez smashed the league's single-season goal scoring record, winning the coveted Golden Boot. The Venezuelan star was named the league's most-valuable player.

Acuna and the Braves rise

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Atlanta Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna celebrates hitting a grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of a National League Division Series baseball Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Atlanta Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna celebrates hitting a grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of a National League Division Series baseball Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton

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Atlanta Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna celebrates hitting a grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of a National League Division Series baseball Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The Atlanta Braves returned to the postseason for the first time since 2013 with N.L. Manager of the Year Brian Snitker at the helm. Spurred by the offense of Rookie of the Year winner Ronald Acuna, the Braves captured their 18th division title. Despite some heroics in Game 3 of the NLDS before a raucous home crowd at SunTrust Park,  the Braves were eliminated from the playoffs by the same team that did them in a half-decade ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The accolades continued after the season when a franchise-best three Braves were awarded Gold Glove awards.

• Also: Chipper Jones was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame

Double dose of UGA-Alabama 

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With their first posession in overtime, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completes a 41-yard touchdown pass to freshman Devonta Smith for a touchdown -- and the win. (Video by Ben Brasch / AJC)

Facing conference rival Alabama in the January national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Georgia led 13-0 at halftime. In a gutsy move, head coach Nick Saban brought in freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who rallied the Tide, throwing for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including the winning 41-yard pass to DeVonta Smith in overtime for a 26-23 victory. A rematch 11 months later in the SEC Championship game, ended in dissatisfying similar fashion.

Falcons’ sputter

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Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills defends against Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones breaking up a pass to the end zone during in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game Jan. 13, 2018, in Philadelphia.

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills defends against Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones breaking up a pass to the end zone during in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game Jan. 13, 2018, in Philadelphia.

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

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Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills defends against Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones breaking up a pass to the end zone during in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game Jan. 13, 2018, in Philadelphia.

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

The Falcons' bid to return to the Super Bowl ended with an upset bid on a cold January night in Philadelphia. The Eagles, playing with their backup quarterback, defeated the Falcons 15-10 in a NFC divisional-round playoff game at Lincoln Financial Stadium. Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense was shut out in the second half after holding a 10-9 halftime lead. The Falcons mounted a last-ditch scoring drive that fizzled at the Eagles' 2-yard line. The Eagles and Nick Foles went on to be crowned Super Bowl champs. A rematch in the season opener ended with similar results. Falcons' woes continued in the 2018 season, which they finished 7-8.

Hawks’ changing of guard

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Hawks guard Trae Young handles the ball against Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder Nov, 30, 2018, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Credit: Zach Beeker

Hawks guard Trae Young handles the ball against Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder Nov, 30, 2018, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Credit: Zach Beeker

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Hawks guard Trae Young handles the ball against Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder Nov, 30, 2018, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Credit: Zach Beeker

Credit: Zach Beeker

The Mike Budenholzer era in Atlanta ended in April and with it came a lot of change. The Hawks hired Lloyd Pierce as the coach to oversee the rebuilding process, which did not include starting point guard Dennis Schroder who was deal to Oklahoma City in a three-team trade. As his replacement, the Hawks traded the No. 3 overall draft pick (Luka Doncic) to the Mavericks in exchange for the No. 5 pick (Trae Young) in the 2018 draft plus a first-round pick in a future draft. This year also marked the debut of the renovated and renamed State Farm Arena. Atlanta is 11-24 to start the season.

Also of note: Longtime Braves third baseman Chipper Jones was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame ... Tiger Woods captures his first win in five years at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club ... Paul Johnson steps down as head football coach at Georgia Tech after 11 seasons in Atlanta ... Michael Vick was named the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Legends, an Alliance of American Football team making its debut in 2019.