Rivalry game countdown

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy between Michigan and Michigan State is just over a day away.

MSU students have been on watch all week protecting the beloved Sparty statue from any Wolverine fans looking to deface it with maize and blue.

The spray paint battle has been part of the tradition leading up to the Michigan-Michigan State game for years.

Wednesday morning someone spray painted a blue letter "M" near the Sparty statue after the letters M-S-U were painted in green at the Diag on U of M's campus on Tuesday.

The in-state rivalry may pit Wolverine and Spartan fans against each other but a tradition of the rivalry that unites both schools is taking place right now.

Alex's Great State Race started at 3:30 a.m. on Friday morning. ROTC cadets from both schools run from Ann Arbor to East Lansing carrying the game balls for Saturday's match up.

The race began in 2014 in honor of Alex Powell. He attended MSU and received treatment at U of M before dying of cancer.

The event raises money and awareness for students with disabilities at both universities.

Powell's mother says the race has helped her cope.

"The first year I was still very raw and emotional and knowing that it was benefiting somebody else, I was truly humbled by that and it's just awe-inspiring," said Juliana Powell.

The runners are expected to arrive in East Lansing around noon on Friday. It's a 64 mile trek from Ann Arbor to East Lansing.

Remember, parking lots for tailgating open at 7 a.m. on Saturday for the noon kick-off.

And there is no parking allowed on Munn Field.