Alabama Republicans reshuffled their Senate candidates yesterday in an attempt to place their best vote-getter against the man they view as the weaker of the Democratic nominees.

In the switch, former congressman James Martin, who had been running for the Senate seat to be vacated by retiring John J. Sparkman, becomes the GOP candidate for the seat held by Maryon Allen, who succeeded her late husband, James B. Allen, earlier this year.

George Nichols, a little-known Tuscaloosa attorney who had been the GOP nominee for Allen's seat, agreed to drop out after conferring over the weeked with party officials.

Unless someone is appointed, which is viewed an unlikely, the maneuver leaves Democrat Howell Hefling without a Republican opponent for Sparkman's seat. Heflin, a former state chief justice, came out of the primary as a very strong candidate.

But it pits Martin against Donald Stewart, a state senator who ended Allen's bid to complete her husband's term.

Allen, who was appointed by Gov. George C. Wallace ealier this year, had promised to carry on her late husband's conservative policies. Republicans had concentrated their efforts on Sparkman's seat.

But after the primaries, Martin, a popular campaigner who once nearly lection in the southern state of Karnataka. Ghandi is facing trial for alleged political corruption.

Martin's office said yesterday that state headquarters had asked him to switch races, although Martin later said he was under no pressure to do so. He and his wife, Pat, told a news conference he switched "because of the strong sense of duty and desire for us to repay our state and nation for all the benefits we have been provided."

Martin is an oil distributor in north Alabama.

Nichols had combatted rumors throughout last week that he might withdraw so that Martin could replace him. "I'm a party man," he told one reporter. "If somebody came to me and said, 'George, here it is in black and white; you can't win,' - then I might consider it."

He continued campaigning through the week. When he finally withdrew, he said it was clear there would be insufficient money for a campaign.

Stewart emerged from the primaries with campaign funds depleted, but without strong opposition in the general election. The new alignment sense certain to attract interest and possibly funding from both national party committees.