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BILLS-JETS CABLE RATINGS MAKE HISTORY

Sunday night's Buffalo Bills-New York Jets telecast generated ESPN's biggest audience in nearly four years and drew the fifth highest viewership in cable history.

The Bills' 17-3 victory was seen in an average of 8.268 million homes based on a 10.74 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The telecast attracted ESPN's third-largest audience, surpassed only by the Detroit-Miami NFL game on Christmas Day 1994 (8.927 million homes) and the Buffalo-San Francisco game on Dec. 3, 1995 (8.627 million homes).

CNN's "Larry King Show" on Nov. 9, 1993 (a NAFTA debate), which was seen in 11.174 homes, is the all-time cable ratings leader.

A TNT Dallas-Minnesota telecast on Sept. 17, 1995 was the second-most watched cable show, attracting 9.113 homes.

Meanwhile, the Bills game this Sunday against the Eagles is sold out and will be televised locally at 1 p.m. on Ch. 29.

Gailey kicking himself

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Chan Gailey admitted Tuesday that he goofed by not requesting a free kick after a fair catch on the final play of the first half against the Atlanta Falcons.

Gailey said he knew of the rule that gives coaches the option of trying an uncontested field goal after any fair catch, but figured that only was possible if there was time remaining.

Punt returner Wane McGarity made the fair catch with no time left at Atlanta's 47, which is in the range of punter Toby Gowin, who also handles kickoffs. But, Gailey took his team to the locker room.

Sanders to have father-son talk

DETROIT -- The father of retired Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders plans to talk with his son about rejoining the team in time for its fourth game, according to published reports.

Williams Sanders told the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News that he would meet with his son this weekend, according to reports in both newspapers today.

"He's in for a father-and-son talk. I'm going to tell him to go back to Detroit," he told The Detroit News. "No situation is so bad you can't go back."

Sanders' agents, David Ware and Lamont Smith, are resisting demands that he repay a prorated portion of his signing bonus, saying their client must be traded or granted free agency before any money is returned to the Lions. The club has said it will not give up its rights to Sanders.

The dispute has gone to arbitration. But William Sanders said Arthur McAfee, an attorney with the NFL Players Association, told him that his son could not win the case.

Dolphins, Broncos deal

DAVIE, Fla.-- The Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos swapped their 1998 first-round draft choices, with receiver Marcus Nash going to Miami in exchange for running back John Avery.

Nash started in Denver's loss Sunday to Kansas City but had no catches. He caught just four passes as a rookie for 76 yards.

Avery rushed for 503 yards last year but fell out of favor with coach Jimmy Johnson. Avery was the 29th pick in the 1998 draft, and Nash was taken 30th.

The Dolphins also announced that punter Brent Bartholomew may miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in Sunday's win over Arizona.

Around the league

ABC appears to be getting record prices in excess of $2 million for 30-second commercials in January's Super Bowl telecast, up 25 percent from a year earlier. If the average price winds up at $2 million, it would be the highest average ever for commercials in a TV program, easily eclipsing the Super Bowl record of $1.6 million set last January.

Cleveland Browns defensive backs Tim McTyer and Antonio Langham will both be sidelined following injuries in Sunday's loss to Tennessee. McTyer will be out six weeks with a broken left forearm, while Langham will miss two-to-four weeks with a broken left thumb.

Wide receiver Rob Moore signed a four-year, $17.5 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Moore, 31, will receive a $5 million signing bonus as part of the deal.

The Minnesota Vikings have signed pass rusher Chris Doleman, who had 15 sacks last season with the San Francisco 49ers. But Doleman, who turns 38 next month, admitted he wasn't in shape after spending the last eight months hitting golf balls instead of quarterbacks.

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