It wouldn't be fair to keep Florida State All-American Deion Sanders out of the Sugar Bowl against Auburn because of the cornerback's arrest in a shopping mall scuffle, coach Bobby Bowden says.

"I met with Deion to get his account of just what happened," Bowden said in a statement released Monday night. "Only after I had satisfied myself as to what happened did I determine that his eligibility should not be affected.""Based on the facts presented to me, I do not feel that it would be fair to prohibit Deion Sanders from playing in next Monday's Sugar Bowl."

Bowden's decision ended two tense days of speculation among Seminole fans about whether their flashy star known as "Prime Time" would be left behind.

Sanders, 21, was arrested Christmas Eve after an incident in a Fort Myers gift shop and was charged with battery on a police officer and disorderly conduct. He was released Saturday night after posting $2,600 bond, police said.

According to witness and police accounts, a shouting match ensued over the purchase of earrings and Sanders allegedly struck an auxiliary officer called in to quell the disturbance.

"Coach Bowden's position has always been that you are innocent until proven guilty," said Rob Wilson, FSU's sports information director.

Sanders met with Bowden on Monday and then went on to a workout with teammates. Florida State players were scheduled to practice briefly this morning before boarding a flight for New Orleans, where they meet Auburn in a Jan. 2 matchup of 10-1 teams.