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Sports briefs


OSU NOT OPTION: Maurice Clarett shouldn't count on returning to Ohio State now that the courts have blocked him from entering the NFL draft this weekend.

"I cannot envision a scenario where he would be able to play football next fall for Ohio State," athletic director Andy Geiger said Friday.

Clarett's attempt to circumvent the league's eligibility rule was turned down Thursday by two U.S. Supreme Court justices. Clarett, 20, is challenging the NFL's requirement that players wait three years after high school before turning pro.

The issue is pending before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which has put on hold a lower-court ruling in Clarett's favor that said the NFL can't enforce its three-year rule.

BRONCO CONVICTED: Denver Broncos linebacker John Mobley was convicted of drunken driving on Friday. A Douglas County jury also convicted Mobley of driving with excessive alcohol and speeding. He faces between seven days and a year in jail and a fine of $450 to $1,000 on the drunken driving charge. Sentencing was set for July 22.

"I believe in my own innocence and, you know, you got to take it how it comes," Mobley said after the verdict.

Broncos spokesman Jim Saccomano declined to comment on Mobley's future. It was Mobley's second alcohol-related conviction.

PITTMAN SENTENCED: Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman was sentenced to 30 days in jail Friday for putting the lives of his wife, son and a baby sitter at risk. The sentence included three years of supervised probation and a fine and surcharge totaling $4,500. Pittman must begin serving his sentence on Monday. If he fails to comply with the terms of his probation, he could be forced to serve another 60 days in jail.

Pittman was indicted last June on two counts of aggravated assault for intentionally crashing his sport-utility vehicle into his wife's car in May. His 2-year-old son and baby sitter Kristina Hegland were in the vehicle. No one was injured.


SPONSOR DROPS LANCE: The Postal Service is ending its sponsorship of celebrated cyclist Lance Armstrong, winner of five consecutive Tour de France races. The agency has sponsored Armstrong's pro cycling team for eight years and will to do so through the end of 2004.

Spokesman Gerry McKiernan said the agency has decided to go "in another direction" with its advertising. Asked if that meant some other sport relationship, he said "it's possible."

Armstrong, who will go for a record sixth Tour de France win later this year, was disappointed to hear the news, but not surprised.

"I have mixed emotions, but predominantly I have great memories and great feelings towards them," Armstrong said after the fifth stage of the Tour de Georgia Friday. "In 1998 they were the company and the sponsor that stepped up and gave me a chance to race again."

Auto racing

RUDD WINS POLE: Ricky Rudd gave the Wood Brothers team its first pole in 20 years, taking the top spot Friday in qualifying for the NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

To get it done, Rudd had to beat the intimidating DEI tandem of Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. They have won 10 of the last 13 races at Talladega and Daytona, the tracks where NASCAR slows the cars with carburetor restrictor plates.

Rudd, in his second season driving for one of NASCAR's oldest teams, turned a fast lap of 191.180 mph in his Ford. Then he then sat and waited for the Chevrolets of Waltrip and Earnhardt — both among the fastest in practice — to take their shots. Each came up short.


MARADONA OFF RESPIRATOR:Diego Maradona was taken off a respirator Friday but remained in intensive care for a sixth consecutive day with severe heart and lung problems. The medical team treating the 43-year-old soccer great said it suspended use of a breathing tube at midday, replacing the tube with a plastic mask to provide Maradona with oxygen support. Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, was admitted to the Suizo-Argentina Clinic on Sunday because of chest pains.


HOUSTON OPEN: PGA Tour rookie Zach Johnson shot a 4-under 68 Friday and was in a three-way tie for the lead when the second round of the Shell Houston Open was suspended by darkness. Johnson, who won earlier this month at the BellSouth Classic, overcame a second day of gusty winds and a nearly 2-hour weather delay at the Redstone Golf Club in suburban Houston. With 36 players to finish their second round early Saturday, Johnson, Steve Stricker and Steve Lowery were at 5-under 139 after two rounds. Among those to finish Saturday was Neal Lancaster, who was one shot behind the leaders with three holes remaining. John Riegger was at 4 under with one hole to play.

Patrick Sheehan, Paul Azinger and Vijay Singh finished the second round at 4-under 140. Justin Leonard, Mark Calcavecchia and Scott Hoch were among six players another stroke back.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Gil Morgan shot a 7-under 65 and held a one-stroke lead over Hale Irwin and Dave Barr in the first round of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah, Ga. Craig Stadler, seeking his second win of the Champions Tour season, was at 67. Bruce Fleisher, also looking for his second win, was among five players at 68. This was the 22nd straight round of par or better for Morgan, who won the SBC Classic last month. He had eight birdies and one bogey. At this pace, the winner is almost certain to better the 10-under 206 total posted in 2003 by defending champion Bruce Lietzke. The Legends, which spawned the senior circuit in 1978, had been played in four different cities and on eight different courses before coming to Savannah last year.