NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For the first time in its history, Nathan’s Famous will launch its 2013 hot dog eating season with a qualifying event on Coney Island.

Nathan’s said it decided to dedicate this year’s contest to Coney Island’s comeback after Superstorm Sandy flooded businesses and homes and caused damage up and down the boardwalk.

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“This year we’ll kick off in Coney Island and we’ll end in Coney Island,” Nathan’s spokesman George Shea told 1010 WINS.

Each male and female winner of the qualifying event is eligible to compete in the 98th annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

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The original Nathan’s, located on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, also sustained enormous damage from the storm, the company said.

“There is no better way to show our commitment to Coney Island and all its businesses, residents and fans than to kick off the summer season with a great event on the boardwalk,” Wayne Norbitz, president and COO of Nathan’s, said in statement.

Additional qualifying rounds will be held in Queens and at the Meadowlands in East Ruthford, N.J. as well as other cities including Boston, Miami, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Savannah.

The Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest has been held every year on July 4th in Coney Island since 1916.

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