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Falcons Worried Sanders May Stay With Baseball

NEWSDAY

If Deion Sanders becomes the New York Yankees’ starting left fielder and fails to report when the Falcons open training camp July 26, he would be required to pay back a significant portion of the $2.01-million signing bonus he received last year.

The Atlanta Falcons aren’t making an issue of it yet, but they are worried “Prime Time” may decide Yankee Stadium is a more glamorous stage on which to perform.

“We’re in competition for Deion’s services,” Jim Hay, Falcons vice president for finance, said. “The indication we get is that he will play football when it’s time. But those things change.

“He said one thing when he was sent to Columbus (Ohio). It might change if he’s playing for the Yankees and hitting .340. Yankee Stadium is an intriguing thing. He may look at baseball salaries, and if he projects himself as a big-time player, he might play baseball.”

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Yankees Manager Bucky Dent has said Sanders could be called up within the week from Columbus, where he was hitting .357 through last Thursday’s games. The Dave Winfield trade was made, in part, to clear a spot in the lineup for “Neon Deion.”

Yankees Executive Vice President George Bradley, who negotiated Sanders’ baseball contract earlier this year, said the deal reflects a strong commitment to baseball by Sanders.

“Let me put it this way; it’s a weighted contract,” Bradley said. “It’s heavily weighted toward the end of the year. He’s got too much to lose by leaving. If he’s not in the major leagues (on July 26), he has a right to leave, but I’m not certain he would do it even then. There are not only financial reasons for him to stay but also a lot of long-term stuff.”

Sanders’ four-year package with the Falcons is worth $4.41 million. If he remains with the Yankees, it’s likely Sanders would have to refund a prorated portion of the signing bonus--$500,000 for each year in which he fails to play a full season--but Hay declined to specify how much Sanders would owe.

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The Falcons are hoping to avoid a situation similar to that of Bo Jackson, who plays a full baseball season with the Royals and then takes his place in the Raiders’ backfield in late October.


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