MLS PHILLY BOUND? Gov. Ed Rendell unveiled a $47 million state funding package Thursday to aid in the construction of a soccer stadium in a Philadelphia suburb, the latest step in an effort to attract a Major League Soccer franchise.

Rendell and state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, announced the aid package a short distance from the the hilly, barren land that would be transformed by the $414 million project named "Rivertown."

In addition to the stadium, the plan calls for offices, stores and housing in the struggling waterfront city.

In the package, $25 million would go toward the stadium and is contingent on MLS awarding a franchise. That money, combined with $30 million committed by Delaware County and the city of Chester, would go toward a planned 18,500-seat stadium on the banks of the Delaware River.

The next step is to persuade the MLS to award a franchise to the area.

MLS commissioner Don Garber called Rendell's announcement "another very positive development" toward bringing a team to the area.

"The Philadelphia market just took a big step forward and is now well positioned to receive an MLS expansion team," Garber said in a statement. "The opportunity to be part of a large-scale urban renewal project along the historic Chester waterfront remains extremely appealing to us."

Garber said the league is eager to continue conversations with the potential ownership group.


CHARGES DROPPED: A Tennessee judge dismissed misdemeanor charges against suspended Titans player Adam "Pacman" Jones on Thursday, agreeing with the prosecutor that Jones has been punished enough over the past year.

District Attorney General William Whitesell said at a hearing in Murfreesboro that Jones knew his behavior was inappropriate when he was arrested outside a nightclub in August 2006.

Jones apologized to the court and has written an apology to the arresting officer.

Jones had reached a plea deal to avoid jail time on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct after he got into an argument, refused to leave the club and shouted profanities at officers.

The judged considered revoking that deal because Jones was charged with two felonies after a Las Vegas strip club melee.

College basketball

O'BRIEN CLEARED TO COACH: Jim O'Brien, fired by Ohio State and essentially banned from coaching by the NCAA for paying a recruit, can return to the college sidelines after an appeal changed his punishment.

An NCAA ruling on March 10, 2006, all but prevented any colleges from hiring O'Brien until May 2009.

But in a decision released Thursday, an appeals committee changed the start date of the sanctions against the coach, making him free to return to coaching effective March 10.


GONZALEZ, MARLINS STRIKE DEAL: Free-agent outfielder Luis Gonzalez and the Florida Marlins reached a preliminary agreement on a $2 million, one-year contract.

Gonzalez must pass a physical for the deal to be completed, a person familiar with the negotiations said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team had not yet announced the agreement.

The contract includes $1 million in performance bonuses.