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Look for loose cable connections at the battery, loose cable connection at the starter,corroded/or not clean metal at either.Sparks would be the result of a difference in voltage and if its sparking at battery it most likely is a poor connection.
No this wouldn't cause sparks, it would cause starter to get hot and possibly blow a fuse.
It wouldn't hurt to check if the engine was seized. This is more information now so I'm starting to look at this diffentley. That being said it does not explain the sparks, were the sparks happening before any repairs were make?
So the car was driving, felt like it ran out of gas, and then what (?) the engine wouldn't turn over after that? Or it would turn over but not actually start?
If something happened with the timing it should turn over easier then normal.
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