LAS VEGAS ― Five years after cutting short one of the greatest careers in PBR history, two-time World Champion Justin McBride is returning to competition.
On Wednesday afternoon, prior to the opening round of the World Finals, the 34-year-old, who has been working as a television commentator since announcing his retirement at the conclusion of the 2008 season, officially accepted an exemption to compete in bull riding next year at the richest one-day rodeo in history.
The exemption ends two months of rumors and speculation.
In addition to trying to qualify for the bareback riding, McBride is now guaranteed a spot in the draw for the bull riding event at RFD-TV's THE AMERICAN, which will be held Sunday, March 2, at AT&T Stadium-one day after the PBR hosts the Iron Cowboy V.
"I don't want to make a run at anything or go back to a full-season of competition or anything like that," McBride said, "but a onetime deal for $1 million makes a guy want to dust off his stuff."
Aside from some upcoming scheduled work in a practice pen ― he indicated his plan is to get his practice work in on championship round-quality bulls and specifically named Lightmaker's Rango ― McBride made certain to indicate he will only return to bull riding for THE AMERICAN.
"That's the key," McBride said. "It's a pay day.
"It's not like you have to go rodeo all season or ride bulls all season. You don't have to go compete for a World Championship. You have to win an event and you get a $1 million. Now that's easier said than done. You're going to be going against the best guys in each event, or women in the barrel racing, but it's the very best.
"You're going to see big time bulls," he continued, "and you're going to see really good horses there."
The Top 10 riders from the PBR following this week's conclusion to the 2013 season will all be invited to compete along with the winners of six qualifier events ― Touring Pro Division events in Little Rock, Ark. (Skeeter Kingsolver); Las Vegas; Fort Worth, Texas; Denver.; Pueblo, Colo., and Mesquite, Texas ― in addition to any exemptions handed out by Rural Media Group CEO and President Randy Bernard, who is the former CEO of the PBR.
As of now, there has been no indication whether or not two-time World Champion Chris Shivers, who was inducted into the Ring of Honor at a Heroes & Legends ceremony on Tuesday night, will also compete.
"I wouldn't mind seeing Chris Shivers come out just to strap it on one," McBride said. "I mean, guys like me and him don't know how to make $1 million in one day other than doing something like that."
McBride is assured a spot in the draw for the bull riding ― unless Bernard hands out another exemption the bull riding will feature 17 contestants with seven of them eligible for a share of the $1 million bonus ― and recently made his first attempt at qualifying for the bareback riding.
He rode, last weekend, at a Professional Rough Stock series in Salina, Kan. The Top 5 finishers from five separate events ― McBride said he'll likely enter the last two ― taking place before the end of the year will advance to the qualifier finals in Mesquite, Texas, which takes place Feb. 21-23.
The Top 5 from that event will advance to THE AMERICAN.
Until getting on a few practice horses the past few weeks, he hasn't ridden bareback competitively since he attended the University of Nevada ― Las Vegas on a rodeo scholarship. He and college teammate Ross Coleman turned pro after their freshman year in college and focused exclusively on the PBR.
"Now I have a reason to go get on some," McBride said. "I feel like I cut that short ― like I cut that off. When I quit I could do it as good as anybody, but that was a long time ago."
McBride last competed in a bareback riding competition at an open rodeo in Seymour, Texas, in 1999 in an effort to win some much-needed money to travel and enter Touring Pro Division events his rookie season.
Once he made his PBR debut he didn't need money for long.
McBride is the richest Western athlete in history after having earned in excess of $5.1 million in the arena, not including the millions he earned in sponsorship money during a 10-year career in which he set nearly every record.
In addition to a pair of world titles, which he won in 2005 and again in 2007, he set the PBR mark for single-season event wins with eight and the single-season earning mark with $1.8 million in 2007.
McBride was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2009.
He retired prior to events like the Iron Cowboy, which will anchor the historic March weekend, and Last Cowboy Standing. However, he was still the first rider in PBR history to surpass $4 million and the only rider to reach $5 million in career earnings. In 2007, he collected $200,000 for a single 8-second ride when he covered Scene of the Crash in Columbus, Ohio.
It was also announced, on Wednesday, that the winner of the Iron Cowboy V will get on Bushwacker for a chance to win a $1 million bonus at the March 1 event.
While McBride said PBR riders "have been spoiled with big paydays," THE AMERICAN's $2 million total purse for a single-day event has never been done before.
"Guys who rodeo, this doesn't happen to them," McBride concluded. "This will go down as a monumental event in the sport.
"It's the kind of event that you're not going to say no."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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