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Carl Lewis ran one of the worst races of his career and finished a stunning sixth in the U.S. Olympic trials Saturday, ending his quest for an unprecedented third Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash.

Lewis' failure came on a day when the Butch Reynolds case continued to overshadow the competition. With his appeal for permission to run before the U.S. Supreme Court, organizers kept pushing back the start of the 400-meter heats in which the world record-holder hoped to take part, finally rescheduling them for 1 p.m. EDT Sunday.When the high court refused late Saturday to overturn the earlier ruling by Justice John Paul Stevens, Reynolds had the legal backing to compete.

Only the top three runners qualify for the Olympic 100 meters, and Lewis, the world record-holder, wasn't even close.

Dennis Mitchell, the bronze medalist behind Lewis and Leroy Burrell in the 1991 world championships, won the 100 in 10.09 seconds. Mark Witherspoon was runner-up, also in 10.09, and Burrell was third in 10.10.

Lewis was timed in 10.28, far off the world record of 9.86 he set at the world championships, and also finished behind Mike Marsh (10.14) and James Jett (10.25). The top six automatically become eligible for the 400-meter relay team.

"Maybe the weather took a lot out of me," Lewis said after his dismal performance in steamy Tad Gormley Stadium. "I didn't feel sharp."

Until Saturday, Lewis always had performed at his best in the big meets. In three World Championships and two Olympics, he had won 14 gold medals and two silvers. Never had he run so poorly; it was his worst finish since placing ninth in the 1981 World Cup at Rome.

"To run a top race and feel as flat as I did today, you don't make an Olympic team. It's a disappointment. . . . It just wasn't there for me. I ran the best race I could today."

While Lewis was faltering, his old tormentor, Ben Johnson, finished second in the Canadian trials in 10.16, earning a berth on the Canadian team.

Johnson finished first in the 1988 Olympics at Seoul, with Lewis second, but the Canadian was stripped of the gold and suspended for two years after testing positive for steroids. Saturday was Johnson's best performance since beginning a comeback in January 1991.

Lewis' defeat temporarily overshadowed the conflict surrounding Reynolds, the 1988 Olympic 400-meter silver medalist who has been under suspension since August 1990 after testing positive for steroids. He has maintained his innocence, claiming test samples were mishandled, and has sought legal relief.

First-round heats in the 400 were delayed for several hours after Reynolds was cleared to run when Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens overturned an appeals court ruling in Cincinnati.

"The IAAF's threat to enforce its eligibility decision - no matter how arbitrary or erroneous it may be - by punishing innocent third parties cannot be permitted to influence a fair and impartial adjudication of the merits of applicant's claims," Stevens said in his decision.

The Athletics Congress appealed to the full court, which announced late Saturday that it wouldn't overturn Stevens' earlier ruling.

Upon learning of Stevens' decision, Reynolds headed for the track from his hotel. He couldn't wait to race but was forced to when meet organizers decided to delay and then postpone the start of the heats.

Still, he was clearly excited as he exchanged high fives with his agent, Brad Hunt, and said, "It's the right time, the right time. It's my time."

Later, he said, "It's been a rollercoaster ride for me. By the time I get up, I'm down."

Reynolds' enthusiasm was tempered by the other 400 runners, some of whom expressed anger at his possible participation.

The IAAF threatened the other 31 runners in the 400 field with suspension if they competed against Reynolds, raising the possibility that the United States would not have a team in the event in Barcelona.

The U.S. Olympic Committee protested that, and 30 of the runners voted to boycott any race for which Reynolds is ruled eligible.

"It is not acceptable," USOC spokesman Mike Moran said. "We do understand the suspension of Reynolds, but if they try to keep eligible athletes from running in the Olympics, we will fight that."

"If he runs, we won't run," Olympic champion Steve Lewis said. "It was a unanimous decision except for Butch and his brother," Jeff.

Minutes before the men's 100, Gwen Torrence, the 1991 world championship silver medalist, overcame knee pain to win the women's 100 in 10.97.

She was followed by Gail Devers in 11.02 and 35-year-old Evelyn Ashford, the 1984 gold medalist and 1988 silver medalist, in 11.17. This will be Ashford's fourth Olympics.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the world record-holder and 1988 Olympic champion in the heptathlon, took a commanding lead after four events of the seven-event, two-day competition.

Joyner-Kersee compiled 4,071 points, 266 ahead of runner-up Cindy Greiner.

While Joyner-Kersee was dominating the heptathlon in her first appearance of the season, Gea Johnson, the American leader this year, saw her Olympic hopes end.

Johnson, the 1990 NCAA champion from Arizona State, tore the patella tendon in her right knee during the high jump and was carried from the field on a stretcher.

Among other noteworthy performances Saturday:

- Sheila Hudson smashed her American record in winning the triple jump at 46 feet, 81/4 inches. Her previous best was 46-03/4. The triple jump was an exhibition, because it isn't contested in the Olympic Games.

- National record-holder Sandra Farmer-Patrick won a semifinal heat in the women's 400 hurdles in 54.94, the fastest of the year by an American. Kim Batten took the other semifinal in 55.01, the second-fastest.

- Kevin Young won a semifinal in the men's 400 hurdles in 48.18, just off his world-leading 48.16, and David Patrick took the other semifinal in 48.23, third-fastest in the world this year.