COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A man accused of heading up a South Carolina cockfighting ring has been sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison.

The State newspaper reports ( that 54-year-old James Collins was sentenced Thursday to 21 months.

Collins told U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie that he and fellow cockfighters were practitioners of an ancient blood sport. He said he was only trying to keep the sport alive in South Carolina while trying to change laws to make the activity legal.

Collins was among several dozen people rounded up in 2009 and charged with cockfighting and gambling at Lexington and Williamsburg county contests attended by undercover agents.

Prosecutors have said more than 20,000 roosters fought to the death the cockfighting ring over the past two decades.

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