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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Jailed quarterback Michael Vick can keep nearly $20 million in bonus money he received from the Atlanta Falcons following a ruling Monday by a federal judge.

The Falcons sought to recover the bonuses after Vick pleaded guilty to federal charges in a dogfighting operation. The bonuses were paid from 2004-07.

A special master ruled in October the Falcons were entitled to recover the bonuses. The Falcons argued Vick used proceeds from a contract he signed in 2004 to finance his illicit activities.

But U.S. District Judge David Doty of Minneapolis ruled that recovery of the bonus money by the Falcons would violate the NFL collective bargaining agreement. The agreement does not allow signing bonuses to be forfeited for years a player has already performed.

At a November hearing, a union attorney contended Vick's "roster bonus" should be treated the same as a "performance bonus," which can't be forfeited under the agreement. The league maintained the roster bonus should be treated like a "signing bonus allocation," which could be forfeited.

Doty ruled that once Vick made the Falcons' 80-man roster, he earned the roster bonuses and the team cannot demand forfeiture.

Calls left by The Associated Press with the Falcons and NFL were not immediately returned Monday, the morning after the Super Bowl. The NFL Players Association said a statement was being prepared.

Vick received a 23-month jail sentence. He entered a minimum-security prison in Leavenworth, Kan., last month.


Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.



 
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