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Gibbs to become minority owner pending approval news services

ATLANTA -- Joe Gibbs, who won three championships as head coach of the Washington Redskins, is returning to the NFL as a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

New Falcons chairman, president and CEO Arthur Blank announced on Friday that Gibbs, John P. Imlay, Jr., and John A. Williams have reached preliminary agreement to become minority owners of the team, buying a 5 percent stake for $27 million. The NFL has to sign off on the deal before it becomes official.

"Having spent 30 years of my life and having a chance to maybe now be able to make some kind of contribution back to the NFL, I'm excited about that," Gibbs told The Associated Press. "Ownership normally directs everything in the NFL."

Blank first got to know Gibbs through Home Depot's sponsorship in NASCAR. Gibbs, who owns cars raced by Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, formed a friendship with Blank, a Home Depot co-founder who bought the Falcons last month for $545 million.

"I think it was absolutely fantastic for Arthur, the community and everyone that he was able to purchase the Falcons," Gibbs said. "Through that process, we were sitting one night and he said, 'Would you like to have a small interest in this?' and I jumped through the roof. I said, 'Yeah!' "

During 12 years as head coach of the Redskins, Gibbs went to four Super Bowls, winning three of them. His postseason record --16-5 -- is behind only Vince Lombardi and Weeb Ewbank. Gibbs retired from the Redskins in 1993 and turned his focus to Joe Gibbs Racing, based in Charlotte, N.C.

"Joe's NFL track record is one of the best in the league," Blank said. "Combined with his reputation for building winning teams in football and other businesses and his deep-rooted integrity, he will be a valuable member of our ownership team."

Imlay is chairman of Imlay Investments, Inc., a private investment firm that manages capital and provides venture funds for small technology companies. Imlay was a minority owner and board member of the Atlanta Falcons, under its previous ownership, from 1991 until Blank's acquisition of the Falcons in February 2002. Williams is founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Post Properties, Inc.

In addition, former Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski was named to the team's board of directors on Friday. Bartkowski, who started for the Falcons from 1975 to 1985, has the NFL's highest-rated passer three times in his career.

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