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ELUSIVE ELWAY DODGES RETIREMENT TALK

John Elway playfully hinted Tuesday that if Denver wins its second straight Super Bowl on Sunday, he could put off his retirement plans in pursuit of a unprecedented three-peat.

Asked what it would mean to go out with two straight Super Bowl championships, Elway, 38, said, "That would be great. But then again, no one has won three in a row, so that kind of throws a kink in the thinking."

"I really believe that this is John's last game," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "I'm hoping John comes back like everybody else, but John is a very unselfish person. He doesn't want the focus of this game on him and him retiring."

Told of Shanahan's statement, Elway said. "I haven't talked to Mike about it. Maybe he's telling me something."

Either way, Elway said he won't be making an announcement after the game. "I'm going to take some time and talk to my wife (Janet) and talk to Mike and talk to (Broncos owner) Mr. (Pat) Bowlen and talk to my kids and take another vote," he said. "And go from there."

Last year, Elway was outvoted 5-1 by his family, which wanted him to continue playing. And despite strong indications that Elway, finishing up his 16th season, will be playing his final game, he insists he has not made up his mind.

One thing he's sure of is that he'd like to finally have a great game in the Super Bowl.

In his four previous Super Bowl appearances for the Denver Broncos, Elway, the master of electrifying late-game comebacks and daring escapes from the pocket, has been merely pedestrian.

His passer rating in those four Super Bowls combined is a dreadful 49.9, far below his 93.0 rating this season. He hasn't finished a season with a rating below the mid-80s since 1992.

At 49.9, his numbers are more akin to struggling San Diego rookie Ryan Leaf than to Joe Montana, who has the NFL's top career passer rating in his four Super Bowls (127.8). Jim Plunkett is second (122.8 in two games), and Terry Bradshaw is third (112.8 in four games). Elway is 18th.

"I've wanted to put up big numbers in every football game I've ever played," Elway said Tuesday. "I can't try any harder than I've always tried. I'm going to play this one as hard as I've played the other 230-some games that I've ever played. Hopefully, it works out."

It worked out the last time, although not in the way Elway might have envisioned.

While Elway fashioned another ordinary Super Bowl effort -- completing 12 of 22 passes for 123 yards with no touchdowns and an interception for a 51.9 rating -- his Broncos beat Green Bay, 31-24, thanks to MVP Terrell Davis' 157 yards and three scores.

Asked if he still yearned to be a Super Bowl MVP, Elway said, "You bet. I want to do the best I can, but the bottom line is I want to win. Would winning the MVP be a thrill? Sure. It would be great -- if it came along with a win."

When Shannon Sharpe writes his autobiography, it should be entitled "Give Me the Damn Microphone." The Broncos tight end was in all his glory at media day on Tuesday, unleashing his tongue for a 60-minute jog.

Sharpe grew up in Glennville, Ga., but he never thought much of his native NFL team.

"What was there to like about them?" Sharpe said. "They lost all the time. You know, if you had a pair of cleats on when they were in Fulton County (Stadium) they'd put you in the ball game because they were getting beat so bad. For 20 bucks, you could sit in the luxury box with the owner."

Asked what he thought about Atlanta before this season, he said, "You want me to lie or you want me to tell you the truth? I really didn't think a whole lot about them."

Sharpe laughed when somebody suggested Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler is playing better than Elway. About Falcons backup Steve DeBerg, he said: "How old is he, 105? He's old enough to be my father. Man, he knows he's supposed to be retired."

There stood Greg Norman on the smooth, lush grass, examining the turf's texture and wetness.

He seemed ready to ask his caddie for a 6-iron, except there was no caddie, this was not a golf course and Norman was handling one of his many other jobs.

Norman visited Pro Player Stadium long before the Falcons or Broncos arrived for Media Day. Norman's private helicopter landed outside the stadium and he was driven inside on -- what else? -- a golf cart. Norman then inspected the field for Sunday's Super Bowl.

The field happens to be made of grass grown at the Greg Norman Turf Farm in Avon Park, Fla. The base of the field is called GN-1. The grass is PHD rye and lesco.

Norman, who lives in Hobe Sound, Fla., is not expected to attend the game because of business in his native Australia.

The Dirty Bird isn't the Falcons' only dance.

Whenever there's a sack, other defenders acknowledge it with the "Bomb Squad Salute." Defensive tackle Shane Dronett demonstrated for the TV cameras on Media Day, doing a little slide-step to his right and throwing his right arm over his head to point back at the honoree. It's a lot easier than the Dirty Bird, but hasn't quite caught on the same way.

"We're not upset about that," Dronett said. "But we'd like to try to get our own thing going."

Has he ever tried the Dirty Bird?

"I've practiced it, but only behind closed doors," he said.

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