And now, h-e-e-e-e-re's Johnny . . . again?

John Unitas, the quarterback shunted out of Baltimore in 1973 despite his living-legend status there, has told the Colts he would like to succeed the man whodunit to him, Joe Thomas, as general manager.

That's if Thomas leaves, but Colt owner Robert Irsay indicates the "if" is fast shriveling. Irsay says Thomas, who has a year left on his contract, is demanding a new one for five years, no cut, at more than $350,000 a year. Irsay also says, "I appreciate what Joe has done (rebuilding the club), but I can't go in the red to keep Joe Thomas."

Unitas, who regularly shows his perspicacity as an NFL analyst for CBS-TV - "Yeah, he really made a fine play on that partic'lar play" - still lives in suburban Baltimore. He, former New England Patriot GM and Colt personnel chief Upton Bell and several others have called, Irsay said, to be kept in mind if Thomas shoves off.

In Atlanta, where the Falcons have been courting Thomas in hope he could do for them what he did in Miami, Minnesota and Baltimore, owner Rankin Smith took note of Irsay's situation (no meddling anymore) with Thomas and Colt coach Ted Marchibroda and opined:

"Before I'd hire him, we'd have to reach an understanding. With the amount of money and time I've invested in this team, I'm not going to fly down to Bimini in September and have some guy show up on New Year's Day to tell me our won-lost record" . . .