via Sam Laird

For sports fans, the action is increasingly on Twitter. That’s where news breaks, athletes give unprecedented access into their lives and a virtual sports bar of millions of passionate fans is just one click away.

Sports and Twitter intersected more than ever in 2012 (as will likely be the case again in 2013), and with just a few weeks left in the year it’s time to take a look back. Twitter itself released a year-end recap of the social network’s top tweets and trends of 2012 on Tuesday morning. Its sports section is worth a closer, isolated look to revisit some of our favorite memories.

2012’s number one trending topic for sports was the hashtag NFL — no big surprise, considering it’s America’s most popular sport. But no one could have predicted last January who would be responsible for the year’s most viral sports tweet: Green Bay Packers guard TJ Lang. After a controversial call by the league’s early-season replacement referees cost the Packers a win, Lang unloaded on Twitter. One of his posts — which read, “Fuck it NFL.. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs” — has gained over 98,000 retweets and 28,000 favorites. Lang also picked up 90,000 new followers over the next few days.

The hashtag #nascar was sports Twitter’s second-most popular trending topic, and the most viral moment there came when driver Brad Keselowski tweeted from his car during a fire delay at the Daytona 500. (Keselowski later told Mashable more about his love for social media in this exclusive Q&A.) NASCAR and Twitter also announced a strategic partnership this year, something we may see emulated more in the future.

The Olympics were another big trend on Twitter this year, coming in fourth on the official list, which is an impressive feat given that the Games lasted just two weeks this summer. The 2012 Olympics were christened by many as the world’s “first social games” thanks to the explosive growth of social media over the past few years. Athletes’ names were regular worldwide trends during competitions, and the Games birthed a number of funny memes, including one all-time classic.

Major League Baseball had a strong year on social media, with the hashtags #mlb, #sfgiants and #yankees all placing among Twitter’s top 10. The Giants won the World Series in October and grabbed some social bragging rights along the way by matching Barack Obama with a near-maximum Klout score of 99.

And who could forget Linsanity? Jeremy Lin took the social web by storm in February and places sixth on Twitter’s list of top trends. As Lin dominated the NBA and surged to celebrity during an improbable two week stretch, his name and the #Linsanity hashtag took up semi-permanent residence on the Twitter trending charts. He added more than 130,000 followers in a week as Lin-themed memes and tributes popped up all over the web.

What were your favorite social media sports moments of 2012? Share in the comments below and check out our countdown here.