Disgraced sports announcer Marv Albert completed his career resurrection Tuesday when NBC hired him back to liven up its sagging basketball coverage.

The network announced that Albert will begin his hoops duties by the end of the year. He'll also work Olympic boxing and hockey.

"I'm just so happy to be back and to be part of the NBC situation," Albert told Associated Press. "I'm very satisfied to come home."

The star play-by-play man became a virtual sports-world pariah in September 1997 when he pleaded guilty to biting a woman during a sexual encounter at a Virginia hotel.

After a highly embarrassing trial, Albert was quickly fired from NBC and Madison Square Garden Network, where he called New York Rangers hockey games and New York Knicks basketball games.

Over the last several months, however, the announcer--best known for his trademark "Yesss!" exclamation after big plays--has gradually reclaimed his career. He'd already been welcomed back to Madison Square Garden, and TNT hired him in February to help out with its NBA coverage.

"I have always hoped Marv would be able to return," NBC sports chief Dick Ebersol said in a statement. "[I] now feel strongly that the time has come to bring him back." (Apparently the network was quick to extend the olive branch after learning Albert had been negotiating with Fox to do NFL games.)

In returning to the network in which he'd previously worked 20 years, Albert won't occupy his old position as the network's lead NBA analyst--a job now filled by Bob Costas.

According to Ebersol, Albert--pro hoops' premiere NBA commentator before the scandal, and a member of the broadcasters wing of the Basketball Hall of Fame--will be just a regular play-by-play guy. The network says it hasn't decided who his partner will be.

Tainted reputation or not, Albert's return comes at a time when NBC's post-Michael Jordan NBA ratings could certainly use...well, some bite.

Despite the inclusion of the big-market Knicks, ratings for this year's NBA Finals were the lowest they've been since 1981--when pro hoops' biggest event wasn't even shown in prime time.

This year's five-game series tumbled 40 percent from last season's six-game Jordan swan song. Overall, the '99 finals averaged an 11.3 national rating (each rating counts for 994,000 TV-watching households) and a 21 percent share of the overall television audience. Last year's finals averaged an 18.7 rating, the highest in NBA history.

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