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ELWAY PLANS TO RETURN: John Elway will have at least one more shot at being "king of the hill."

The 37-year-old Elway, who quarterbacked the Denver Broncos to their first Super Bowl title last month, plans to return for the 1998 NFL season, his agent, Marvin Demoff, said Thursday.

"My expectation always was that John would tell (owner) Pat Bowlen and (coach) Mike Shanahan a year in advance that I'm taking it one year at a time," Demoff told the Denver Post. "Well, John's giving them a year's notice on his locker starting now. He might end up renewing that lease after next season . . .

"It fulfills his obligation to Pat to help him get a new stadium. It fulfills his obligation to Mike to get someone in place. And it allows John to tour the NFL at least one more season as the king of the hill, which is exactly what he is."

Team spokesman Jim Saccomano said Friday that Broncos' officials had not yet heard from Elway.

"In time, John is going to let us know . . ." he said. "It's certainly very well known we love our quarterback, and want him to return."

Even before the Super Bowl victory over last year's champion, the Green Bay Packers, Bowlen had predicted Elway would be back at least one more season.

LIONS, MORTON AGREE: The Detroit Lions and free-agent wide receiver Johnnie Morton have agreed to a five-year contract worth an average $3 million a year, according to a published report Friday.

The Detroit News - quoting a source close to the negotiations - said Morton is expected to sign Monday provided a minor, unspecified detail not involving money could be worked out.

JAGUARS SIGN 4: Three veteran defensive players and one offensive lineman have signed new contracts with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars did not disclose the term or length of the contracts agreed to by linebacker Jeff Kopp, defensive tackle Jose White, offensive guard-tackle Todd Fordham and cornerback Ricky Parker.

FORMER DOLPHIN HAS SURGERY: Former Miami Dolphins defensive end Doug Betters under-went surgery Friday after hitting his head in a ski accident at the Big Mountain resort.

Kalispell Regional Medical Center listed Betters in serious condition and said his injuries were not life-threatening. The operation was being performed by a neurosurgeon, and the hospital said other information would be released when the doctor was available.

Betters, 41, was a defensive end for the Dolphins and retired in 1988.


PRICE GETS 8-YEAR DEAL: Washington State University coach Mike Price has signed an eight-year contract that will make him one of the highest paid Pacific-10 Conference coaches, athletic director Rick Dickson said Friday.

The lengthy contract, worth an estimated $470,000 a year in salary and outside income, was to reward Price not only for this year's Rose Bowl appearance but also for graduating all 26 senior players, Dickson said.

"I humbly accept," Price said, thanking players, assistant coaches, fans and alumni for "allowing me to represent you for at least the next eight years."

Dickson said he made his pitch on behalf of Price's raise to WSU president Sam Smith and the Board of Regents prior to the Nov. 22, 1997, Apple Cup game against Washington.

"Now is the time to step up and reward an above-and-beyond performance with an above-and-beyond commitment," Dickson said.

"This contract will mark over a quarter century of what I consider a great partnership for me and Washington State University," said Price, who was a Cougars player in 1965 and later an assistant coach before becoming head coach nine years ago.

Price led the No. 9 Cougars to the Rose Bowl, where they lost to No. 1 Michigan 21-16 and finished with a 10-2 record.

The contract moves Price in line with Paul Hackett of Southern California, Bruce Snyder of Arizona State, Stanford's Tyrone Willingham and Jim Lambright of Washington, all of whom make $450,000 or more a year.