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The protagonist of the game, Carl Johnson was born and raised in Grove Street, Ganton, Los Santos, living in their house with his mother, his brothers Sean "Sweet" and Brian Johnson and his sister Kendl. Sweet and CJ joined the Grove Street Families gang as kids, and Sweet became the leader of the gang. The Grove Street Families gained power in Los Santos, although their enemies, the Ballas and Vagos continued to cause damage to them.
In 1987, CJ's brother Brian died (the cause of the death was never revealed), and CJ was forced to leave his hometown Los Santos and move to Liberty City, where he started working as a car thief for Joey Leone. At this time, the Grove Street Families began losing power, eventually losing turf to Ballas and the Los Santos Vagos, and they split up to three sets, the original Grove Street Families (ruling Ganton), the Seville Boulevard Families (having control of Playa del Seville) and the Temple Drive Families (mainly establishing themselves in Temple and Santa Maria Beach). All the other territories were being controlled by Ballas and Vagos, who were interested in drug trade, instead of the GSF (who never sold drugs due to Sweet's ban on narcotics).
Return of CJ
In early 1992, the Ballas plotted the death of Sweet, and then the eventual capture of Ganton and the ultimate fall of the GSF. They decided to do a drive-by shooting on The Johnson House, and they used a green Sabre car for the getaway. However, Sweet survived, with Sweet and CJ's mom caught in the cross fire. This forced CJ to return from Liberty City to Los Santos for the funeral.
When CJ arrives at the airport, a taxi transports him back to his old hood, although, one block away from Grove Street, a police car arrives and arrests Carl. The three cops that took CJ were officers Frank Tenpenny, Eddie Pulaski and Jimmy Hernandez of the C.R.A.S.H. police unit, a corrupt team of cops. They blame CJ for the death of Officer Pendelbury, who they killed instead, and take most of Carl's money, leaving him to Ballas territory. Carl finds the way to his old hood, where he enters his mom's house, and meets Big Smoke, one of the leading members of the gang and Sweet's friend. They head to the funeral, where they meet the rest of the gang, Sweet, Ryder and Kendl. Sweet doesn't seem to be happy with his brother's arrival, because he thinks CJ "ran away". After the funeral, they are planning to enter Big Smoke's car, although the Ballas blow it up with a drive-by. The gang then leaves with bikes, with the Ballas car chasing CJ. When they arrive at Grove Street, Carl decides to stay in Los Santos, seeing things are "fucked up".
CJ co-operates with Sweet, Smoke, Ryder and OG Loc to strengthen the gang again, by eliminating crack dealers who sell cocaine to GSF members, and buying weapons from Emmet, spraying enemy gang tags with the Grove sign, and doing drive-bys in Ballas territory. After this, CJ is introduced to Cesar, Kendl's boyfriend, and leader of the Hispanic gang Varrios Los Aztecas (enemies of the Vagos), with whom become good friends. Also, Carl does missions with Ryder, stealing guns for the gang by any means necessary, Big Smoke, attacking enemy gangs, and OG Loc helping him start his career and establish himself as a rapper. Then, Officer Frank Tenpenny re-appears, having CJ kill some Vagos and torch a house, where he finds his first girlfriend, Denise Robinson, after rescuing her from the burning house. Tenpenny also has CJ interrupt a meeting between Ballas and Russians, and kill them.
After the Ballas attack Ganton and Grove Street and CJ kills them and keeps the area for the GSF, Sweet has more trust to him, and has him buy guns and attack and take over a Ballas territory, Glen Park. The gang also hits the Ballas by killing their Temple set leader Kane in the cemetery, along with other Balla members. CJ takes over more territory for the Grove, weakening their enemies, and also tries with Sweet, Smoke and Ryder to reunite the three sets of the Families, although they are attacked by the police and they escape after a long chase.
CJ's respect is upgraded, and Sweet decides to hit the Ballas hard. He makes an army of GSF members and make a deadly shootout with the Ballas in the parking lot under the Mulholland Intersection. Cesar phones CJ and informs him to meet him quickly, because he saw something weird. After CJ comes there, he realizes that his friends, Big Smoke and Ryder, are working with the Ballas, are fiercely loyal to Tenpenny, and were also involved in his mother's shooting. He realizes that Sweet is walking into a trap, and quickly goes to the parking lot under the Mulholland Intersection to save his brother. When he arrives there, he finds out Sweet is heavily injured, and more Ballas are coming. After CJ kills them all, the police arrives and arrests Sweet and CJ. Sweet is being held in a prison hospital awaiting trial, while CJ finds himself in a car with Tenpenny and Pulaski, miles away from Los Santos, in a place with countryside and a massive mountain.
Whetstone, Flint County, & Red County
They order CJ not to return to Los Santos and try to kill Smoke, otherwise Sweet will be put in a Ballas cell-block in jail. They also have him kill an agent threatening to reveal their secrets to the authorities. Carl also meets Cesar's cousin Catalina, and they perform robberies together, and an aging hippie called The Truth, who is high on drugs and also provides Tenpenny with weed and stuff like that. He has CJ steal a Combine Harvester from a farm and deliver it back to him, and says he will call when the weed is ready. CJ insists Cesar to leave Los Santos with Kendl, as the Grove Street Families and Varrios Los Aztecas are both disbanded and their territories taken over by the Ballas and Vagos, and he rents them a trailer home in Angel Pine, a small town in the countryside. After beating Wu Zi Mu, the leader of the Chinese San Fierro Triads in a car race, and Catalina and her new boyfriend Claude in a same race, he gains a deed to a garage in San Fierro. Then, The Truth calls informing CJ to come and collect his money, although the cops find out about the weed farm, and CJ and The Truth torch it to the ground and also blow a police helicopter up with a Rocket Launcher, and leave with the marijuana to San Fierro.
There, CJ finds that the garage is defunct, but his sister calms him down and tells him that they can make it into a successful chop shop. Also, CJ plants the drugs that he and The Truth took to a district attorney's car, thus having the D.A arrested by the police.
Cesar calls CJ and informs him of a Ballas car seen leaving the Mulholland Intersection and heading towards the countryside. They follow it and it leads them to Angel Pine, where they take photos of Ryder and some other guys. The other three guys are the heads of the Loco Syndicate, an organization providing Big Smoke, Ryder and the Ballas and Vagos gangs with drugs. CJ decides to kill the heads of the Loco Syndicate, Jizzy B, T-Bone Mendez and Mike Toreno. Before doing that, he gains their trust by doing missions with drugs for them. After CJ kills Jizzy, he and Cesar with the help of Wu Zi Mu interrupt a meeting between the Ballas and T-Bone Mendez's gang, the San Fierro Rifa, and kill T-Bone Mendez and Ryder. To destroy the syndicate ultimately, Carl blows up a helicopter presumably with Toreno inside, and destroys a crack factory in Doherty using a car bomb. He also works for Woozie's Triads, helping him defeat the rival Vietnamese gang called the Da Nang Boys, and making a friendship with him. Carl and Cesar then turn the garage into a successful business by stealing fast cars and delivering them to the place.
Tierra Robada & Bone County
An unknown caller tells CJ to come to his ranch in Tierra Robada and that he has information about his brother Sweet. After CJ arrives there, the unknown man is revealed to be Toreno, who was not killed. Toreno reveals CJ that Sweet is in a cell between two psychopaths, and that Tenpenny and Pulaski killed Pendelbury and then blamed Carl for the murder. Toreno, then, has him perform tasks for him, most importantly learning to fly planes and helicopters, in order to get his brother Sweet out of jail, as Toreno promised.
Woozie is now a successful businessman with a casino in Las Venturas, and tells CJ to come and visit him. As CJ arrives there, Woozie informs him of a big plan: robbing the rival Caligula's Casino which is ran by the Italian Mob. Carl firstly gains the trust of the mob boss Salvatore Leone by carrying hits on rival mob families, and then he and the Triads rob the casino after a well-thought and done plan, firstly stealing some dynamite, then stealing the plans for the casino, stealing the swipe card for the casino from a croupier that becomes CJ's girlfriend, cutting off the electricity in the Sherman Dam, stealing some HPV1000 police bikes for the getaway, highjacking an armored van using a Leviathan helicopter and respraying it with the Caligula's Casino logo, and finally robbing the casino with huge profits for Carl and Woozie. Carl also buys a luxurious house in Prickle Pine, where Tenpenny confronts him and orders him kill an FBI agent and get a dossier. At this time, Officer Hernandez is not with the team, and is revealed that he talked to the authorities about Tenpenny and Pulaski's corrupt operations. When Tenpenny finds out that, he calls CJ and orders him to meet him in a ghost town in the desert, in a totally abandoned place. There, Carl hands the dossier to Tenpenny, who then hits Hernandez with a shovel and leaves him for dead. Tenpenny also orders Pulaski to kill Carl, but Hernandez suddenly gets up, Pulaski shoots and kills him, but CJ takes his weapon and starts chasing Pulaski in the desert. When Pulaski is nearly dead, he disrespects CJ wanting to "fuck his sister". Carl, infuriated, brutally kicks him in the head and kills him. Also, CJ is introduced to rapper Madd Dogg, who he rescues from suicide, then helping him take his mansion in Los Santos back from the Vagos.
Return to Los Santos
Toreno re-appears, and he orders CJ to steal a military aircraft from a naval station, and use it to destroy spy planes and ships. After CJ does that, he threatens to kill Toreno, although Toreno reveals that he has fulfilled his promise and Sweet is now free. Carl meets his brother, who is not happy with CJ's new lifestyle. To prove his loyalty, Carl takes back Ganton and Grove Street from the Ballas, re-establishing the old gang. The Johnson brothers begin an open war on the Ballas and Vagos, taking almost all of Los Santos from them. Also, Carl retrieves Madd Dogg's rhymebook from OG Loc.
Tenpenny is put in court for several charges, but is acquitted due to lack of evidence. After hearing this, the whole city of Los Santos erupts in riots, reminiscent of the LA riots of 1992. Carl, firstly, helps Cesar take his hood back from the Vagos, and finally, goes with Sweet to confront and kill Big Smoke in his crack palace. CJ enters the building, fighting his way through Ballas, Vagos, Rifas and Russians, and finally confronts Big Smoke, and kills him after a gunfight in his room. CJ afterwards sits near a dying Big Smoke, asking him why he gave up the gang life, and Big Smoke explains that he was too interested in the money, and with his dying breath proclaims, "Everybody will remember my name! Big Smoke!". CJ doesn't have time to mourn his friend's death as Tenpenny timely arrives with a combat shotgun, and orders CJ to load up Big Smoke's drug fortune in a briefcase, which he intends to bring with him along with a new band of lackeys on an airplane and flee San Andreas. Tenpenny remarks "You're gonna thank me when you open your eyes... But OH! I almost forgot!(pumps shotgun)Time to die." However, CJ distracts Tenpenny by pretending to call out to Sweet, giving him time to dodge as Tenpenny turns to see if Sweet is behind him. Tenpenny, quickly flees the crack place, then sets the building on fire by destroying the generator and leaves. CJ is again forced to fight his way out, and finally escapes when the building explodes. Tenpenny tries to leave with a firetruck, but Sweet hangs on the back and CJ follows him. As Sweet loses his grip, Carl rescues him by putting his car right behind the firetruck, so he falls inside the car. Sweet takes the wheel, and CJ acts as the shooter, eliminating countless enemies who try to destroy their car, while Sweet chases Tenpenny's firetruck. Finally, Tenpenny loses control, the firetruck falls down and he dies in the heart of Grove Street. The riots pause, and all go inside CJ's house to celebrate their final win, and Madd Dogg's new record. As Carl goes out, Kendl asks him where he is going, in which CJ responds: "Fittin' to hit the block, see what's happening". Then, the credits roll and the game is ended.
Five years ago Carl Johnson escaped from the pressures of life in Los Santos, San Andreas... a city tearing itself apart with gang trouble, drugs and corruption. Where film stars and millionaires do their best to avoid the dealers and gangbangers.
Now, it's the early 90s. Carl's got to go home. His mother has been murdered, his family has fallen apart and his childhood friends are all heading towards disaster.
On his return to the neighborhood, a couple of corrupt cops frame him for homicide. CJ is forced on a journey that takes him across the entire state of San Andreas, to save his family and to take control of the streets.