DECATUR, Ga. – Musician Kid Rock testified Thursday that he exchanged some tough words with a customer before a 2007 melee at an Atlanta-area Waffle House restaurant but didn’t start fighting until provoked.

“I gave it to him verbally, I said, ‘Shut your mouth, man,'” the singer testified, adding that while members of his entourage hit Harlen Akins, the musician never landed a punch.

Robert James Ritchie, better known as Kid Rock, and five members of his entourage are being sued over the 2007 fight.

Akins claims the musician cursed at him and then members of his entourage beat Akins up and smashed his cell phone.

Kid Rock testified that he and his friends were acting in self-defense and only used as much force as was necessary.

“If you look at me, Bossy, Jason and Bear,” he said referring to members of his entourage who are all big men, “if we wanted to hurt this man, we could have hurt him very, very bad.”

Several doctors testified Wednesday that Akins had injuries that were consistent with having been in a fight. A firefighter who drove him to the hospital testified Tuesday that he didn’t note anything about Akins being bloody in his report and found no signs of internal bleeding.

Kid Rock pleaded guilty in March 2008 to a misdemeanor charge of simple battery stemming from the incident.

The musician stopped at the restaurant following a performance in Atlanta. The fight broke out after Akins recognized a woman in Kid Rock’s party and spoke to her.

Lennon assassin considered other targets

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The man who fatally shot John Lennon outside his New York City apartment said he considered killing Johnny Carson and Elizabeth Taylor, but the ex-Beatle was more accessible.

Mark David Chapman also said the bullets he used came from a former police officer friend.

Chapman told a parole board earlier this month he borrowed $5,000 for his trip from Hawaii to shoot Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980.

The details are in a transcript released Thursday.

Chapman was denied parole after the Sept. 7 hearing, his sixth since becoming eligible in 2000.

Chapman told the panel killing Lennon was “a horrible decision.” He said he thought killing someone famous would make him somebody but instead it only made him a murderer.

Oprah to pick Franzen’s latest for her book club

NEW YORK – Oprah Winfrey has forgiven Jonathan Franzen.

Nine years after picking Franzen’s “The Corrections” for her book club and then canceling his appearance on her show after he expressed ambivalence over her endorsement, Winfrey has chosen his new novel, “Freedom,” according to three booksellers.

The booksellers asked not to be identified, noting that the talk show host is not scheduled to announce her pick until today.

Winfrey’s decision tells a story she loves well, redemption, and cites a book that itself redeems a troubled Minnesota-based family. Released in late August, “Freedom” was virtually canonized by critics before publication and has been topping best-seller lists.

First lady ‘hell’ quote denied

WASHINGTON – The White House is denying that first lady Michelle Obama ever described her White House life as “hell.”

Mrs. Obama’s spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, responded Thursday to a purported comment attributed to Mrs. Obama in a forthcoming book, “Carla and the Ambitious,” about French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. The book says Bruni-Sarkozy recalled that during a recent White House visit with her husband, the French president, she asked Mrs. Obama about her new role. According to the book, Mrs. Obama replied: “It’s hell. I can’t stand it.”