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MELBOURNE, May 20 (Reuters) - The Australian Football League's Grand Final will revert to its traditional afternoon slot at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in September after two years of COVID-19 disruption forced the championship-decider out of the game's heartland.

The Sept. 24 match, one of the great carnivals of Australian sport, will kick off at 2:30 p.m. (0430 GMT) as part of a "return-to-rituals" push by the top flight of Australian Rules football.

"Prior to the start of this season, we emphasised that after two really challenging years, we all yearned to return to the footy rituals and routines that set the rhythms of our lives," AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said on Friday.

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"We remain committed to creating an amazing event, and seeing 100,000 fans return to the MCG on that last Saturday in September."

With Melbourne under COVID-19 lock-down last September, the 2021 Grand Final was played in Perth where the Melbourne Demons thrashed cross-town rivals Western Bulldogs by 74 points to win their first premiership in 57 years.

The 2020 decider was shifted to Brisbane due to another lockdown in Melbourne, the first time the match was played outside Australia's second-largest city in AFL history.

The Demons are currently top of the AFL table midway through the regular season, giving their fans hope of seeing the team defend their championship at home, having been banned from travelling to Perth last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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