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Patriots Cancel Hartford Move

<i> From Staff and Wire Reports</i>

The New England Patriots are back where they started after calling off a deal to move to Connecticut because a stadium could not be built fast enough.

The Patriots officially notified Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland in a letter following a late afternoon phone call from owner Robert Kraft.

Rowland promised legal action against Kraft and possibly the NFL as well.

“It’s now official. I am a New York Jets fan, now and probably forever,” Rowland said at a news conference in Hartford.

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The Patriots did not immediately disclose their plans for a stadium, but the NFL intends to discuss the situation at spring meetings in Atlanta on May 25.

Amid great fanfare in December, Kraft signed an agreement with Rowland to move the team to Connecticut after the state had offered him a $380-million stadium on the Hartford waterfront.

In recent weeks, however, the deal got shaky as it appeared unlikely the stadium would be completed by 2002--the year insisted upon by Kraft.

The announcement was made less than 24 hours after Kraft had met with Rowland in Hartford, and two days before Sunday’s deadline for Kraft to back out without any financial penalty.

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Massachusetts political and business leaders worked in recent days to develop a plan to keep the team in the state.

Under the plan, which still needs legislative approval, Massachusetts will pay $70 million for infrastructure supporting a new stadium in Foxboro, the team’s current home. But Kraft will have to pay for the stadium.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly have signed quarterback Kordell Stewart to a contract extension through 2003. The Steelers did not confirm that a deal has been reached, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that terms have been filed with NFL offices in New York.

Tennis

Second-seeded Venus Williams reached the semifinals of the Betty Barclay Cup at Hamburg, Germany, with another display of power tennis, but top-seeded Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic was upset.

Williams used her serve to beat Amanda Coetzer of South Africa, 6-4, 6-3. Unseeded Barbara Schett of Austria defeated Novotna, 6-4, 6-3.

Unfazed by wind, sprinkling rain and chilly temperatures, Magnus Larsson of Sweden coasted to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over second-seeded Jason Stoltenberg of Australia to gain the semifinals of the $325,000 AT&T; Challenge at Duluth, Ga. “In Sweden, this is a pretty average summer day,” Larsson said.

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Fifth-seeded Sebastien Grosjean of France advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Sargis Sargsian of Armenia. Grosjean now faces Jim Courier, a 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) winner over fellow American Justin Gimelstob earlier in the day in a match delayed because of rain from Thursday night, and a 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) winner over Martin Rodriguez of Argentina in the quarterfinals.

Motor Racing

Failing pre-qualifying inspection proved to be no hindrance at all to Greg Ray, who roared back to win the pole for the VisionAire 500 in record fashion at Concord, N.C.

After getting his Dallara Aurora re-examined by Indy Racing League inspectors, Ray recorded a speed of 222.039 mph, the fastest lap ever run at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Warren Johnson set national NHRA pro stock records for elapsed time (6.843 seconds) and speed (202.24 mph) to lead qualifying for the Pennzoil Nationals at Dinwiddie, Va. Gary Scelzi recorded the second-quickest run in NHRA history (4.494 seconds) to lead top fuel qualifying.

Miscellany

A federal judge has transferred a $12-million lawsuit accusing the University of North Carolina women’s soccer coach of sexual harassment and misconduct to Greensboro, N.C., from Illinois. Debbie Keller and Melissa Jennings, two former players from Chicago, filed the lawsuit against Anson Dorrance eight months ago.

Bryne Malone, 22, a Florida State backup defensive tackle, was arrested on attempted murder charges in connection with a drive-by shooting in Tallahassee. He was kicked off the team.

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Dennis Harrison, a former NFL player and defensive line coach at Vanderbilt, was charged with assault for allegedly hitting his wife in Nashville.

Maurice Greene and Ato Boldon, the top-rated sprinters in the world, will be vying for a $200,000 bonus today for breaking the 100-meter world record of 9.84 seconds at the Modesto Relays. Both Greene, the 1997 world champion, and Boldon, the world champion at 200 meters and the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist in the 100 and 200, have bests of 9.86.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has hired an advertising firm to develop its first ad campaign as it tries to help cover a shortfall in fund-raising for the scandal-ridden 2002 Salt Lake City Games. . . . About half of the members of the WNBA players’ union voted on a new four-year collective bargaining agreement. The result of the voting was not immediately revealed. . . . Sir Alf Ramsey, who coached England’s soccer team to its only World Cup title in 1966, died after a long illness. He was 79.


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