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SANDERS WOULD BE WILLING TO PLAY FOR THE DOLPHINS

MIAMI -- Running back Barry Sanders would consider playing for the Miami Dolphins, among other teams, if he comes out of retirement next season, his agent said.

Whether Jimmy Johnson returns as coach wouldn't affect Sanders' decision regarding Miami, said his agent, David Ware. Sanders hasn't decided if he wants to play in 2000, Ware said.

"I've tried to avoid dealing in hypotheticals," Ware said from his Atlanta office. "But if we put him in a position where he can go to another team, certainly Miami would be high on his list of places where he would like to play."

A Jan. 11 arbitration hearing is scheduled to determine Sanders' future. The Lions want him to return $5.5 million in signing bonus money they say he owes the team after his unexpected retirement.

Sanders is willing to repay the Lions, Ware said, but in return wants the club to relinquish its rights to him. That would make Sanders an unrestricted free agent.

If the Lions retain his rights, the only way to acquire Sanders would be via trade.

Rice would consider pay cut

SAN FRANCISCO -- Star receiver Jerry Rice, whose future with the 49ers has been a hot button for much of this season, indicated he would consider taking a pay cut to return next year.

"It's not about money for me," he said. "It's about just being out there with the guys and being able to come back next year and help turn this around. So I don't have a problem with that."

Rice has a salary-cap figure of $5.49 million for next season, third highest on the club, and General Manager Bill Walsh has said that he wants to restructure the contracts of Rice and quarterback Steve Young for them to return.

Young, who has a cap figure of $8.1 million for 2000 and is recovering from a Sept. 27 concussion, has not said if he plans to play next year. Rice has, and the 49ers responded by suggesting he might have to take a cut in his $2.250 million base salary and $1.7 million in bonuses.

Around the league

San Diego linebacker Junior Seau, who's bothered by a strained stomach muscle, won't play in the season finale Sunday in Denver.

The 6-week-old son of former Carolina Panthers receiver Rae Carruth was released from a Charlotte hospital Friday. Chancellor Lee Adams was released to the mother of Cherica Adams, who was Carruth's girlfriend and pregnant when fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting Nov. 16. Carruth and three other men are charged in her slaying.

New England Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn withdrew his appeal of a club-imposed suspension for one game. Coach Pete Carroll said he suspended Glenn for Sunday's home game against Baltimore because the player, who was excused from practice last Friday and Saturday because of the flu, didn't meet with club medical personnel Saturday night, Monday and Tuesday.

Washington Redskins running back Stephen Davis was unable to practice again Friday because of a sprained ankle and was put on the inactive list for Sunday's game against Miami.

The NFL fined Lions safety Ron Rice $5,000 for a hit on Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey during Denver's 17-7 victory on Christmas. Rice was fined for unnecessary roughness.

Here's one for the ages: New York Jets linebacker Bryan Cox, who has been fined more than $140,000 by the NFL for various infractions during a nine-year career, was awarded the Kyle Clifton "Good Guy" Award by the club's administrative staff. The award is presented to the player the most courtesy.

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