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JORDAN TO HANG UP THE GLOVE AND TAKE BACK SNEAKERS?

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The Chicago Bulls will have Michael Jordan back in uniform next year, according to published reports.

The Chicago Sun-Times, citing an unidentified sourse, said Jordan "has just about decided" to leave the Class AA Birmingham Barons when the season ends Sept. 3 and rejoin the Bulls in time for the start of the NBA season in October.Jordan, a nine-time NBA all-star before retiring from basketball last year, is not posting all-star numbers in his new sport. He is hitting .197 with 26 RBIs, 29 walks and 73 strikeouts in 269 at-bats this season.

"This has been difficult for Michael," the Sun-Times' source said. "He's been so frustrated that his hitting hasn't clicked consistently, ... that he's letting down his teammates.

"Despite what anyone thinks, Michael always thinks about his team - no matter what team it is - first," the source said.

Jordan was traveling with the Barons, a Chicago White Sox farm team, and could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Bulls denied Wednesday that Jordan's return was imminent, and a spokesman for the Barons said he doubted it, too.

"It goes against everything he's said all season," the Barons spokesman said.

The White Sox have not given up on Jordan's efforts to play baseball, said general manager Ron Schueler.

"Not yet, as long as he doesn't give up," Schueler said. "I think a couple of times, mentally, he has been down. But he fought back and right now his attitude is real good."

Jordan considered announcing his intentions at the Class AA All-Star Game in Binghamton, N.Y., on July 11, the Sun-Times reported, citing an unidentified source involved with the All-Star Game.

But Jordan declined an invitation from Southern League President Jimmy Bragan to play in the game.

Bragan said he invited Jordan to play because he has boosted attendance across the league. Bragan said Jordan declined so he could spend more time with his family.