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OLYMPIC WINDFALL MAKING MAILMAN EVEN RICHER

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As promised, the Olympics have put the Mailman on a new marketing level. This year should bring the Mailman - who makes over $3 million per year playing for the Jazz - a heftier paycheck than ever.

The Jazz forward picked up considerable publicity when he was named a spokesman for USA Basketball prior to the Olympics. He has done a commercial for JC Penney and appeared on boxes of Frosted Mini-Wheats and Kellogg's Corn Flakes. There's a new commercial due out from L.A. Gear, and he also appears in a plug for Wall-Stars.Also (surprise!), the Mailman is cashing in big on his association with the trucking and heavy equipment industries. He said recently that he has talked with Caterpillar and JB Hunt trucking about endorsement deals. Those are the result of the acquisition a year ago of a $200,000 tractor-truck that has received national publicity.

"This truck thing has opened up a whole new avenue," says Malone. "There's never been a pro basketball player or athlete do something like this before."

A big ten-four on that, good buddy.

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If you're still looking for that Karl Malone autograph, it's available for free. All you need to do is look young and innocent.

The Mailman says signing autographs - the bane of virtually every pro athlete - is still something he will do for kids who haven't yet made autograph collecting a business.

"My main thing," the Mailman told the Deseret News, "is that I still love little, young, innocent kids who come up for an autograph. Not the collectors with certain cards and a certain pen and a brief case. But I love the little kids that come up and say, `Mr. Malone, can I have your autograph?' "

He says he tries to get the child's name, thus assuring it is a personal card and not one to be sold in the booming trading card market.

The Jazz All-Star says he signs as many autographs as possible, but still finds it difficult to satisfy everyone. "I'm not saying I sign down to the last one," he says, "but I do as much as possible. But I could probably sign 2,000 autographs and if I don't sign one, I'm a bad person."

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In a small way, the Mailman knows what it's like to seek autographs. He has a well-publicized collection of photos autographed by sports and entertainment figures. Also, he said he has such items as an autographed Nolan Ryan poster and a football jersey from Jim Kelly.

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Malone has his sports apparel store and trucking business, Michael Jordan his endorsements empire. But perhaps the most unusual off-the-court business in the league belongs to San Antonio's Sean Elliott.

The Spurs' forward recently opened a pet store in San Antonio, called Full Court Pets. Elliott, who grew up in Tucson, says he developed his interest bringing home various animals as a kid. "My mom didn't really like it, but she let me keep them anyway," he says.

Elliott tries to work in the store every day in the off-season and considers himself an expert on reptiles and fish. "I've had all those animals: fish, turtles, snakes and spiders. So it's nothing new for me to see them here. I really know a lot about them."

His recommendation to the Spurs' Fast Breakin' magazine is that snakes and turtles make great pets, but fish are the ideal indoor animal. Says Elliott, "They really can't get out of the cage and walk around your house."

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We know. You're tired of hearing about the Mailman and his truck. But it is his favorite indulgence. So here's one more item: Malone's comments on the maiden voyage of his truck from Salt Lake to Idaho Falls and back: "It was awesome, everything I thought it would be and more. With the air ride suspension, it was like riding in a Cadillac."

And it only cost him $150,000 more to buy.

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AND THEN SOME: Malone on the coming year: "I'm extremely happy about the season. It's going to be awesome. I'm excited. I can't wait to play . . . even though I am a little tired." . . . Phoenix's Danny Ainge, after playing in a celebrity golf tournament, says he once considered trying to make the PGA Tour. "But I've golfed with guys like Johnny Miller and Peter Jacobsen," he said. "Get out on the course with those guys and you get a wakeup call real fast. Now I realize my idea of making the Tour is far-fetched."