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Banning IPs from Apache?

Recently I'm experiencing nasty load problems on my home web server for 
reasons I have yet to determine.  But I do see that my access logs are 
full of the usual worm traffic.  Can somebody point me in the right
direction (or just give me the quick tutorial) on whether I can tell
Linux or Apache ASAP "here's a bunch of IPs that I dont want you to
respond to at all?"  What's the optimal way of making sure that these
hits don't kill your server (or even interfere with its usual operation)?

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