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Both made bold predictions to friends, and both backed up their words with startling, electrifying deeds.

Desmond Howard scored his first NFL touchdown Sunday on a flea-flicker punt return that helped the Washington Redskins to a 24-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and his play was the highlight of the game - for about two minutes.Because on the next play, Atlanta's Deion Sanders - you see him more these days in an Atlanta Braves uniform - rejoined the NFL in a big way, rocketing down the far sideline for a 99-yard touchdown on a kickoff return the first time he touched the football this season.

Sanders left the stadium without talking to reporters, while Howard grinned and spoke softly. But the often-brash Sanders and the more-modest Howard had taken a similar approach to the game.

"I told some of the guys at Michigan that I wanted to run one back today, and to watch," Howard said. "It just worked out that way."

Down in Houston, where Sanders' Braves are moving toward wrapping up the NL West title, outfielder Otis Nixon was talking about an premonitory conversation with the outfielder-cornerback.

"He called me at 7:30 this morning and said, `Don't be surprised if you see me high-stepping down the sidelines today,' " Nixon said.

Howard scored his touchdown when teammate Brian Mitchell fielded Scott Fulhage's punt at the Redskins' 42, ran to the 45, and threw a cross-field, overhand lateral to Heisman Trophy winner just before being tackled.

Howard caught the ball at the 42, moved swifty down the far

sideline, and cut back toward midfield at the 5 to avoid an Atlanta tackler before reaching the end zone untouched.

The showcase plays by Sanders and the Redskins' No. 1 draft choice were by far the highlights in a contest Washington coach Joe Gibbs tried to keep, well, boring. "I think our offense was focused on holding the ball," Gibbs said.

"I don't know what the time of possession was, but I felt like we were controlling things."

They did, holding the ball for 39:51 and allowing Atlanta's dangerous run-and-shoot offense on the field for only 20:09.

Washington's offensive domination also overshadowed some devastating news for the Redskins, who saw All-Pro cornerback Darrell Green leave the field on Washington's last defensive series with a broken radius in his right forearm. He will be out at least four weeks.

Green, who was injured just four plays before linebacker Kurt Gouveia made a game-saving interception in the Washington end zone, was initially though to have sustained only a severe bruise. However, additional X-rays taken more than 90 minutes after the game revealed the break.

Trainer Bubba Tyer said that Green's arm would be re-examined Monday before any further medical decisions are made. He said there's the possibility Green could be operated on to fuse the bone, creating a longer layoff.

After the shenanigans by Howard and Sanders, Washington led 14-7. The Redskins scored again on their next possession, when Mark Rypien hit Gary Clark on a 16-yard fade pattern.

Then the Falcons got their second big play when Miller hit Michael Haynes for an 89-yard touchdown pass. The fleet Haynes scored, however, primarily because Green slipped at the line of scrimmage and never quite caught his man.

That was the fifth touchdown in 11 minutes, but then Washington's slow-but-steady approach finally took hold.

Washington came out with a steady attack in the third period, using an 11-play, 43-yard drive to set up a 41-yard field goal by Lohmiller. At that point, the Falcons had just two first downs.

"We took away their running game and forced them to pass, and we had good coverage," Washington defensive end Jason Buck said. "And our offense was out there killing the clock. That was just what kept us so fresh."

Atlanta cut Washington's lead to 24-17 when Norm Johnson hit a 24-yard field goal with almost 13 minutes left in the contest; the play was set up when Ken Tippins fell on a fumbled fair catch by Mitchell on a punt at the Washington 22.

Atlanta would not score again, but they put a scare into the Redskins when passes of 27 and 18 yards to Michael Pritchard moved the Falcons to the Washington 9. But Gouveia stepped in front of Andre Rison in the end zone and picked off Miller's third-and-goal pass. It was the Miller interception in his last 141 attempts.

"That was a big swing," Gouveia said. "When your defense makes stands like that, it gives you a lift. That's as well as we've played together all year."

"I'm disappointed that we made some mistakes," Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville said. "A lot of people played as hard as they can play."

The Redskins also saw Rypien play well for the first time all year and watched their defense solve Atlanta's explosive four-wideout offense.

Rypien completed 18 of 28 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns.