Oprah Winfrey says it's not happening. Walter Payton agrees, but clearly sort of wishes it were. Michael Jordan is too busy playing with a different shaped ball to comment.

The rumor that the talk show doyenne, the NFL's all-time top rushing back and the superstar Chicago Bulls hoopster were planning to buy the Chicago Bears has been kicked into the sidelines seconds after it got up and running.

Citing unnamed sources, Chicago Sun-Times reported the deal was in the works Friday. But Winfrey immediately issued a statement nixing the suggestion that any of her spare millions would be spent on a football team.

"This is totally false," said a statement from her Chicago based Harpo Productions. "Neither Oprah nor anyone else at Harpo has had conversations about this and Oprah is not interested in buying any sports team at this time."

Of course the "at this time" could restart the rumor at any time. Oprah, who dallied long over her recent decision to keep her daytime job, is often something of tease when it comes to making up her mind about her future plans. Consider that a Bears spokesperson told the Associated Press that the team was not for sale "in the foreseeable future," and that the traditionally powerful team is struggling through a woeful 1-9 season, and the door still seems wide open.

Payton, who retired from the Bears in 1987, might be more help to today's squad if he took to the field rather than bought it. Now a member of the Bears board of directors he has long expressed a desire to be the first black to own an NFL team. On Friday, however, he stated he was "not looking in the very near future to be the owner of a football team."

He did confess, though, that "if the right situation came about. I would like to put my talents on the line." And Michael and Oprah's money? Financial World magazine has estimated the Bears' franchise at $204 million. Payton is thought to make about $3 million a year--which these days might just buy him one player. That means he'd need help from Jordan, whose take last year was about $80 million, and Winfrey, who's currently worth at least $550 million.

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