WASHINGTON (AP) Michael Jordan made his comeback official Tuesday, announcing he will return to play in the NBA and sign a two-year contract with the Washington Wizards.

Paul Wong
Michael Jordan announced that not only will he return to the NBA, but he will do so for free. He will donate his salary to the World Trade Center relief effort. <br><br>AP PHOTO

“I am returning as a player to the game I love,” said Jordan, 38 and more than three years removed from what seemed to be a storybook ending to his career.

Jordan will donate his entire salary for the upcoming season to relief agencies working with the victims of the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, said Estee Portnoy, a spokeswoman for SFX, Jordan”s management agency.

“I am especially excited about the Washington Wizards, and I”m convinced we have the foundation on which to build a playoff-contention team,” Jordan said in a statement issued through his management agency.

“The opportunity to teach our young players and help them elevate their game to a higher level, and to thank the fans in Washington for their loyalty and support, strongly influenced my decision.”

The five-time league MVP, who retired for a second time in 1999 after leading the Chicago Bulls to their sixth title, announced his comeback after clearing up a licensing issue with one of his sponsors a disagreement that caused the official announcement to come a day later than expected.

Jordan never completely ruled out a comeback when he retired in January 1999, hedging his bets with the statement that he was “99.9 percent” certain he would never play again. Leaving the door open, even by one-tenth of 1 percent, meant Jordan could always kick it back open without going back on his word.

Now, he has.

“I am happy to welcome Michael Jordan, the player, back to the NBA, although, as commissioner, I am sorry to lose him in the board room,” NBA commissioner David Stern said. “Michael has always brought joy to basketball fans around the world, and, in these difficult times, we can all use a little more joy in our lives.”

Jordan said he would not comment further on his return until Oct. 1.

Jordan has been training for a possible comeback for about six months, at first saying that he was simply trying to lose the extra weight he had gained in retirement. He rigorously worked himself into playing shape over the summer by holding several invitation-only camps of pickup games with other NBA players at a gym in Chicago.

Jordan”s first official practice with the Wizards will be Oct. 2, the first day of training camp at Wilmington, N.C.

He occasionally worked out with the team last season when he was president of basketball operations, a job in which he almost completely overhauled Washington”s roster and put the team into a rebuilding mode.

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