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Nathans Famous

Joey Chestnut nearly eclipses Nathan's contest winner during exhibition at Army base in Texas

Josh Peter

Joey Chestnut devoured 57 hot dogs and buns Thursday in a five-minute exhibition at Fort Bliss Army base in El Paso, Texas on the Fourth of July.

That fell one shy of the winning total of the men's 10-minute Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island from which Chestnut was banned this year.

Pat Bertoletti ate 58 hot dogs at Nathan's contest earlier in the day to win the Mustard Belt awarded to the champion. He was one of four competitors this year to eat 50 or more dogs – something no one did last year when Chestnut won his 16th title with 62 hot dogs.

"Those guys did great!" Chestnut told USA TODAY Sports by text message. "A lot better than last year. I'm really happy for Pat."

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Competitive eater Joey Chestnut, right, celebrates after eating 13 olive burgers in five minutes before a minor league baseball game at Jackson Field in Lansing, Michigan on Aug. 10, 2023.

While preparing for the exhibition in El Paso, Chestnut, 40, set the goal: eat more hot dogs and buns in five minutes than the Nathan’s winner ate in 10 minutes.

"I'd be very happy to do that," said Chestnut, who in 2021 set the Nathan's record with 76 hot dogs and buns.

Chestnut was barred from competing this year because he signed an endorsement deal with Impossible Foods. The company launched a plant-based hot dog and Nathan’s views Chestnut’s partnership with Impossible Foods as a conflict of interest, said George Shea of Major League Eating, which runs the Nathan’s contest.

Though Chestnut’s fans were denied a chance to watch him during ESPN’s telecast, his exhibition from the army base was livestreamed on his YouTube page and viewed by about 19,000 people. He competed against four soldiers, who ate a combined 49 hot dogs and buns.

Of the ban from Nathan’s, Chestnut told USA TODAY Sports last week, "There’s definitely a lot of pain. There’s a bit of grief."

But he said it does not compare to what he endured in 2022, when he competed less than three weeks after his mother died and on a broken leg.

"This situation is really bad, but it’s not nearly as bad as that one," Chestnut said. "I was able to get through that one and I was able to get through the year I lost (in 2015 to Matt Stonie) and come back stronger. I’m going to get through this and we’re going to see where it takes me."

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