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AROUND & ABOUT

Former world cycling champion Lance Armstrong joined the U.S. Postal Service cycling team, three days after being dropped by his French team. A spokesman for U.S. Postal, the only American-based team to compete in this year's Tour De France, said a formal announcement will be made Thursday in New York.

Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN sports channel will open theme restaurants in Baltimore and Chicago, as it seeks new ways to capitalize on one of cable TV's most successful brands. The ESPN Grills, which will feature interactive games and dining areas that simulate studio sets, will open in Baltimore's Inner Harbor in mid-1998 and Chicago's River North neighborhood in early 1999, to be followed by openings in other U.S. cities.

Silencing speculation that he would jump at the chance to take over at Michigan, California basketball coach Ben Braun said he's staying put. Braun signed an eight-year contract with Cal on Tuesday, removing himself from the list of candidates to replace Steve Fisher, fired by Michigan last week. Although he originally planned today to meet with Tom Goss, Michigan's new athletic director, Braun said he decided it was unfair to continue any talks after Cal offered him additional money and two extra years on his contract.

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