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Pro Football

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal appeals court is backing the judge who ruled against the NFL and let quarterback Michael Vick keep more than $16 million in roster bonuses from the Atlanta Falcons.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed Judge David Doty's order saying Vick had already earned the bonuses before his dogfighting conviction, so the money wasn't subject to forfeiture.

Vick served 18 months in prison and is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Doty has long handled matters arising from the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. After Doty ruled in the Vick bonus case, the NFL accused him of bias and sought to end his oversight of its contract with the players union.

The appeals court says the contract should remain under Doty's oversight.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs have run out of patience with Larry Johnson's off-the-field problems and released the former Pro Bowl running back the day he was due to come back from his second suspension in a year.

Johnson, who turns 30 on Nov. 19, was just 75 yards away from breaking Priest Holmes' team rushing record. A No. 1 draft choice out of Penn State in 2003, Johnson was one of the best running backs in the NFL in 2005 and 2006, rushing for more than 1,700 yards each year.

But he was dogged by controversy and frequently at odds with coaches and fans. On Oct. 25, in what turned out to be his final episode with the Chiefs, he posted on his Twitter account several insults to fans, questioned coach Todd Haley's credentials and used a gay slur. He repeated the slur the next day to reporters and was suspended for two weeks.

MIAMI — Former NFL star Lawrence Taylor was released on bond following his arrest in a Miami-area traffic accident.

Taylor was charged Sunday with leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, a second-degree misdemeanor. He was released on $500 bond later that night.

Taylor was involved in a hit-and-run crash Sunday in Hialeah. Taylor told investigators he thought he had hit a guard rail. No on was injured and troopers didn't conduct a sobriety test.

Taylor played his entire career with the New York Giants, winning two Super Bowl titles as one of the league's most dominant linebackers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

Pro Basketball

DALLAS — The NBA has released its All-Star ballot and is allowing fans to vote by text messaging for the first time.

Fans can vote once per day, per phone number, by texting a player's last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (MYNBA). Voting can also be done by paper ballot at each arena and online at

There are 60 players per conference on the ballot. Fans can vote for two forwards, two guards and a center. Voting began Tuesday and continues through Jan. 10 for paper ballots and Jan. 18 for electronic voting. Starters will be announced Jan. 21.

The game will be played Feb. 14 in Dallas at Cowboys Stadium, where the NBA expects a crowd of more than 80,000, which would be the largest to watch a live basketball game.

UNDATED — Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley granted 10-time all-star Allen Iverson permission Saturday for an indefinite leave to deal with a personal matter and The Commercial Appeal newspaper reported that Iverson is contemplating retirement.

The 34-year-old Iverson, who signed a one-year deal in September, missed the preseason with a partially-torn left hamstring. He made his debut on the road a week ago in California, playing in three games at Sacramento, Golden State and in Los Angeles against the Lakers.

He averaged 22.3 minutes coming off the bench and scored 12.3 points per game — well below his career average of 27.0 points.


MELBOURNE, Australia — The size of the gallery at Kingston Heath was nothing new for Tiger Woods, who also played before some 7,000 people two days ago in China.

But that was the final round of a World Golf Championship.

This was merely a practice round for the Australia Masters, and it showed just what kind of buzz Woods has generated in his return to Australia for the first time in 11 years.

Woods is making his fourth appearance in Australia, which he described as one of his favorite spots in the world for golf, particularly the sandbelt courses around Melbourne.

He tied for fifth in the 1996 Australian Open at the end of his rookie season, then tied for eighth in Australian Masters early in 1997. His last appearance was the Presidents Cup in 1998.


STOCKHOLM — Sporting a beard and an old-style swimsuit, Michael Phelps missed out on two finals and barely qualified for a third today at a World Cup short-course meet.

Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, failed to qualify for the finals of the 100-meter freestyle and 100 backstroke. He qualified in the 100 medley, finishing seventh in 53.13 seconds — more than half a second slower than fastest qualifier Darian Townsend of South Africa.

Jing Zhao of China set a world record in the women's 50 backstroke in 26.08. She beat the previous world record of 26.17, set by Marieke Guehrer of Australia four days ago in Moscow.

Phelps, competing for the first time since the world championships in August, wore the type of suit that will become the standard next year. Most other swimmers used faster high-tech gear.

The 24-year-old finished 16th in qualifying for the 100 freestyle in 47.77 seconds. Eight swimmers advanced to the final, with Stefan Nystrand of Sweden recording the fastest qualifying time of 45.93. In the 100 backstroke, Phelps was disqualified. The referee didn't immediately specify why.

Phelps did not compete in either of those two events in a full length pool in Beijing, when he broke Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals won at the 1972 Munich Olympics.


LONDON — World Cup organizers say there was never an emergency plan to move the 2010 tournament if South Africa were not ready.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the United States was among countries that could host at short notice. But World Cup organizer Danny Jordaan says the only way that could have happened was in the event of a natural disaster.

Jordaan says his country would never have agreed to invest $4.5 billion in infrastructure if soccer's governing body imposed any other contingencies.

— The Associated Press

Concerns had been raised that South Africa would not be ready to host the competition after construction work on stadiums and transport infrastructure lagged behind schedule.

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