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Sanders will pull double duty today

He's here, he's there. Today, he'll be everywhere.

Deion Sanders will pull off a most-unusual double play today, playing for the Atlanta Falcons in Miami this afternoon, then jetting back here to suit up for the Atlanta Braves tonight.

Ending a week of speculation, Sanders officially notified the Braves on Saturday that he would pull the double duty.

"It's something that we heard might happen, and it is going to," said an obviously perturbed Braves general manager John Schuerholz. "I wish it was not so. But I will not distract from the team for one individual."

Sanders was to leave Pittsburgh early this morning and take a chartered jet to Miami. After today's football game, he is expected to hop on a helicopter outside Joe Robbie Stadium, reboard the chartered jet, then return to Three Rivers Stadium just in time for tonight's 8:30 game.

Not that he needs it, but Sanders will get some financial assistance for the trip. Atlanta media reported Saturday that Nike Inc. is footing most or all of the $8,300 transportation costs.

And because Nike already is paying Sanders $3-million over the next three years to endorse its products as a two-sport athlete, there is probably a good chance there will a commercial generated from Deion's double duty.

Braves management, though, is not likely to tune in. When Sanders decided to report to the Falcons this summer, he assured the Braves he would be with them until the season ended.

Schuerholz said Saturday that Sanders would not have been included on the post-season roster if the Braves had known he was planning to play football.

"Why would you volunteer to play with 24 guys in case one gets a helmet in the knee?" Schuerholz said.

Sanders has had only a limited role for the Braves in the post-season and would likely only see action as a pinch-runner. But his effectiveness in that role would have to be questioned after a short night's sleep, a three-hour football game in the south Florida heat and a hectic 2{-hour flight back here.

"The only problem is if he comes back and can't play anymore," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Then that's a big problem."

The Braves players, interestingly, seem more amused than upset with Sanders' plan.

"It's great, if you can do it," second baseman Mark Lemke said. "I'd like to do it too. It must be great to hop off one field and hop on another without needing a tuneup."

Said pitcher Steve Avery: "We know Deion has to do what he has to do."

Schuerholz was asked why the Braves players didn't seem as annoyed as he was. "Maybe because their tolerance level for annoyance is higher," he said.

There was little doubt among the Braves that what lured Sanders was the spotlight.

"Nobody has ever done this," Cox said, "and I'm sure Deion is aware of that."

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