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Ex-Jet Curtis Martin expects to be NFL owner by next season

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Curtis Martin's dream of being an NFL
owner is closer to becoming a reality.

The league's fourth-leading career rusher, who announced his
plans to run from the backfield to the front office when he retired
in July, said he's made progress in his bid to run a team.

"It is very possible that I'll be in ownership by next year,"
Martin said Wednesday. "I expect to be in ownership by next
year."

It's uncertain which team he's in talks with, but it's been
speculated it is not the New York Jets, with whom he spent nine of
his 12 NFL seasons.

Speaking to The New York Daily News this week, Martin wouldn't disclose which team he's targeting but did said he's investing significant time and money into it. He indicated that every couple of weeks, he takes a lengthy business trip, traveling from New York to Dallas to Miami to Atlanta.

Asked by the paper what is the nature of his trip to those particular cities, Martin wouldn't say. The News speculated that he's meeting with potential investors or banks or both.

"I won't say anything else,"
Martin said. "When it does happen and when everything plays out,
I'll be very detailed and we can probably go through the entire
process. But to protect those who are involved and the integrity of
the whole deal, I'm not going to say too much about it."

The 34-year-old Martin, who'll be honored by the Jets during a
halftime ceremony Sunday against Pittsburgh, believes he's the
perfect type of owner for today's NFL.

"I want to become a new image of what a professional athlete
is," Martin said. "I think presently in sports, you have the
whole bravado, bling-bling, and it seems that that's the image that
most of us look up to, and I don't know who set that image. I want
to be a different image. I want to be an image that's positive for
you long-term. ... That's one of my true motivations, is to be a
different goal to reach versus just having a million homes and a
million cars and all the jewelry in the world."

Martin was considered one of the classiest and toughest athletes
to play in New York before he was forced to retire because of a
bone-on-bone right knee injury suffered during the 2005 season.

"I still feel my knee," he said. "If I'm not doing anything
on it, I feel fine and I feel like I can get out there and play on
the field, but there's certain things that I do that lets me know
that that's just a fantasy. I've been boxing a lot, so there's a
lot of twisting and I can feel it during my training."

Martin spent last season on injured reserve and made the
decision to retire official the day before training camp opened, 19
months after his last game.

"The ownership thing has given me the feeling that I've never
even left football," Martin said. "You know how a caterpillar
turns into a butterfly? I feel like I'm still that same animal, but
I'm just making the transition into a different position."

During his 11 active seasons, he amassed 14,101 yards rushing,
ranking behind only Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726)
and Barry Sanders (15,269). His 3,518 carries are third on the
NFL's career list, and his 90 touchdowns rushing rank tied for 12th
with Eric Dickerson. Martin, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was
also a versatile offensive weapon, catching 484 passes for 3,329
yards and 10 touchdowns.

"I feel as though all my heart, blood, sweat and tears were
left out there on that field, so it's hard for me to regret
anything, especially as it concerns football," he said.

Martin's presence is still felt around the Jets' training
facility. Coach Eric Mangini has left Martin's locker untouched,
complete with his name plate, pads and uniform hanging as if he's
going to come in and suit up again.

"Usually, when you're not here, your name is gone the next hour
and your locker's cleared out by the next day," Martin said. "I
haven't been around too much, but I still see my Sea Breeze and my
lotion and everything in my locker. I appreciate little things like
that."

On Sunday, Martin will have at least 50 guests in the stands to
watch him be honored at midfield, including his mother, Rochella;
Bill Parcells, his coach with the Jets and New England Patriots;
and Mark Wittgarner, his high school coach in Pittsburgh.

"It's going to be a good moment for me," said Martin, who
doesn't expect to cry during the ceremony. "I haven't taken
advantage of a lot of the opportunities to celebrate what I've
accomplished and I really appreciate the Jets for making this
moment available for me."

When the day was being planned, Martin thought the game against
the Steelers would be the perfect backdrop.

"That's where I'm from and playing against the Steelers has
always been the most exciting game for me simply because of it
being where I'm from," he said. "I just thought it was a great
fit for the occasion."

The matchup might not be the best for the Jets, though. New York
(1-8) has lost six straight, while Pittsburgh (7-2) has looked
solid in winning its last three.

"I just think that this is the year people thought we would
have last year, and last year was supposed to be this year,"
Martin said. "Sometimes things get turned around like that. I
think the worst thing you can do is abort your game plan. I think
Eric is a wonderful coach, a great coach, the coach that was needed
for this team at this time."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.