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Tuesday, December 24
 
Deion will not play in the NFL this season

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Deion Sanders will not become a member of the Oakland Raiders after being claimed by the San Diego Chargers on Tuesday. Nor will he return to the NFL this season.

Five teams put in claims for the former All-Pro cornerback. As a result, Sanders can't fulfill his plan of returning to football with Oakland.

The Chargers claimed Sanders and will put him on their retired-reserve list, ESPN.com's John Clayton reports.

The Chiefs, Colts, Steelers and Titans also put in bids, Clayton reports. Waiver selections are made in inverse order of standing. The Chiefs and Chargers are both 8-7, but the Chargers get an earlier waiver pick because they have a weaker schedule than the Chiefs.

The Raiders, at 10-5, are tied for 27th on the claiming list. The Chargers, at 8-7, are tied with Kansas City for the worst record among teams who put in claims. San Diego was given the first shot at Sanders because of a weaker strength of schedule.

The Chargers are barely alive in the playoff hunt. They must beat Seattle on Sunday, then get help from several other teams in other to clinch a wild-card spot.

"We will always do what's in the best interest of the San Diego Chargers, for now and for the future,'' Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said in a statement. "We have not been eliminated from playoff contention. We're not going to concede anything to what could be a potential playoff opponent. We're going to continue to put ourselves in the best possible position to be successful.

"Should Deion decide he wants to play in the future, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss that with him at the appropriate time,'' Schottenheimer said.

Sanders cannot play for the team that claimed him because he will have to be placed on its reserve-retired list, the same list he was on with Washington.

The only way Sanders could have returned this season was to clear waivers and then sign with the team of his choice, presumably the Raiders.

"My reaction is the same reaction I had yesterday,'' Oakland coach Bill Callahan said. "It was all speculation. Nothing's changed. I'm pleased with the guys that we have that are working.''

The 35-year-old Sanders announced Sunday he was considering a comeback.

Sanders finished his career with 474 tackles, 385 of them solo, 48 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and eight touchdowns. He also was a standout kick returner.

The activity caused a stir at the Raiders' facility in Oakland.

Players milled around the locker room Tuesday buzzing about the possible return of the one-time highlight-reel making "Prime Time'' Sanders, famous for his blazing speed and high-stepping touchdown interception returns.

But the Raiders were aware that that he might be claimed by an AFC playoff team looking to spoil Oakland's plans.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.




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