Sanders a $35m Cowboy

American football

Two games, two victories, but for Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, the best news of the nascent NFL season is that he will have to part with $35m (pounds 22.5m). That is the sum that has secured the services of Deion Sanders, the outstanding cornerback whose appearance in a San Francisco 49er shirt last season did most to deprive the Cowboys of a third successive Super Bowl.

Jones will regard it as money well spent if Sanders repeats the feat this year, but the amount involved has raised eyebrows throughout the league. Sanders, whose commitments as a professional baseball player mean he is unlikely to play football for a month, will receive a signing bonus of around $13m (an NFL record) for a seven-year deal. He could have got more elsewhere, he told a news conference yesterday, "but I truly want to be a Dallas Cowboy".

The 49ers, normally among the league's most generous employers, led the tut-tutting. "We feel that it was not only inappropriate and irresponsible to match that offer, we feel that had we done so, it would have had a very destructive effect on the 49er team chemistry and the financial structure and sanity of this organisation," Carmen Policy, the 49ers president, said.

Without Sanders, the Cowboys beat Denver 31-21, while the 49ers dispatched Atlanta with customary ease. The two already appear destined for a fourth consecutive confrontation in the NFC championship game, with Sanders' new home shifting the odds significantly in the Cowboys' favour.

The new era in Philadelphia has begun much as the old one ended, with Randall Cunningham benched. The Eagles starting quarterback was pulled from the game in Arizona early in the second quarter. Cunningham, who had completed three of eight passes, was replaced by Rodney Peete, who inspred a 31-19 win, the Eagles' first under Ray Rhodes. If that surprised fans in Philadelphia, it did not compare to the amazement in Cincinnati and St Louis, both unbeaten after two games.

NFL: New England 3 Miami 20; Washington 8 Oakland 20; Houston 17 Pittsburgh 34; San Francisco 41 Atlanta 10; Dallas 31 Denver 21; NY Jets 24 Indianapolis 27 (ot); San Diego 14 Seattle 10; Minnesota 20 Detroit 10; Buffalo 31 Carolina 9; Kansas City 20 NY Giants 17 (ot); Cleveland 22 Tampa Bay 6; Arizona 19 Philadelphia 31.

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