IN BRIEF

DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) Michael Jordan, estranged from the sport he adopted, may be returning to the game he once ruled.

Jordan practiced again with the Chicago Bulls yesterday, the third straight day he appeared at team headquarters, fueling speculation that he'll trade in his baseball spikes for a new pair of Air Jordans.

''As far as Michael and all the speculation in basketball, we just have to hang tight here and wait to see what goes on,'' Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson said.

''He and I spoke about this possibility happening last September and October,'' Jackson said. ''It's a reality ... but it's still not a reality. So we're not pinning any hopes and we're not trying to throw up a balloon or a kite that's not ready to fly.''

After the Bulls' two-hour practice, the 32-year-old Jordan drove off in his Range Rover without comment. And spokesmen for the Bulls, the Chicago White Sox and Jordan's agent said no announcement was forthcoming.

Jackson said the distraction made it tough for the Bulls to remain focused, but might help energize a lethargic team.

PHOENIX (AP) Fourth-generation Arizonan Mark Hamblen was thrilled yesterday. He's waited all his life for major league baseball in his hometown.

He'll get it in three years.

''I'll definitely go see games,'' Hamblen said yesterday after watching the announcement that Phoenix had been awarded one of two expansion franchises. ''I'd go see scabs play, as long as it was baseball.''

Hamblen was hopeful that the current players strike would be solved by the time the Diamondbacks take the field but said he would still see replacement players.

''I said years ago that if Phoenix ever got a team, I was going to be the first in line to get season tickets,'' said Phoenix Firebirds season-ticket holder Mark Jennings of Phoenix. ''I'm not first, but I'm one of the first. I'm thrilled, and I can't wait for it to happen.''

Even 120 miles south in Tucson, fans were excited.

Developer Bruce Ash says he'll remain a Los Angeles Dodgers fan but will have season tickets to the Diamondbacks.

He said Thursday was the second-best day in his life, next to his sons' birth, ''who will be sitting on either side of me.''

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