Franco Harris, the NFL's No. 3 career rushing leader who helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win four Super Bowls, was released by the Seattle Seahawks yesterday.

"Franco Harris and I had a long talk and we kind of mutually agreed that it would be in everyone's best interest if we released him," Coach Chuck Knox said. "He made a contribution to our football team. It may not be reflected in the statistics, but he gave us a big lift when we needed it . . ."

Harris, 34, carried three times for three yards against the San Diego Chargers Monday night. He gained 170 yards, a 2.5 average, in 68 carries in eight games for the Seahawks (7-2).

Harris brought to Seattle the ballyhoo of his drive to beat Jim Brown's NFL career rushing record, but never caught Brown and was surpassed by Chicago's Walter Payton. Harris has 12,120 yards, 192 shy of Brown's total . . .

Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry evidently has warned his players that any more public criticism of teammates or the coaching staff will be punished by $1,000 fines and suspensions.

Landry's edict was prompted by remarks some players made last week after Landry announced he would start Danny White instead of Gary Hogeboom at quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts, The Dallas Morning News said.

Asked about the gag rule, Landry said, "We have enough critics outside the team to have critics on the inside."

Last month, after the Cowboys were beaten, 28-7, by the New York Giants, Landry told his team he was upset at reading comments some had made publicly, criticizing the coaching staff for an offensive scheme that allowed linebacker Lawrence Taylor to blitz successfully.

Landry gave White the nod to start in Sunday's return match with the Giants, taking note of the threat of Taylor with, "Surely Danny will handle it better. He sees things Gary doesn't see" . . .

Cincinnati Bengals Coach Sam Wyche said there has been an "incident" involving running back Stanley Wilson, hospitalized earlier this season for a month to undergo chemical dependency treatment. Wyche would not disclose particulars, but said he expects NFL headquarters to have an announcement about Wilson this week -- "It is now in league hands" . . .

San Diego Chargers majority owner Alex Spanos has sold a 20 percent interest in the NFL team to Willametta Keck Day. Terms undisclosed . . . The USFL's Orlando Renegades, who used to be the Washington Federals, have interviewed Lee Corso about becoming their coach; he is 3-4-1 at Northern Illinois. BASEBALL

Larry Sheets hit a home run and a double to lead the Baltimore Orioles to a chilly, windy-day 5-3 victory over the Hiroshima Toyo Carp before 15,000 in Tokyo's Seibu Stadium. The American League team took a 2-1 games lead in their series of five with the Japan Series champions . . .

Jim Davenport, the original third baseman of the San Francisco Giants as a 1958 rookie, became their manager yesterday, on a one-year contract . . . The Milwaukee Brewers settled on a one-year contract with pitcher Pete Vuckovich (out since 1982 with shoulder injuries) and picked up a one-year option on pitcher Don Sutton (who will decide by Dec. 1 if he wants to stay). BASKETBALL

Chicago Bulls guard Quintin Dailey, after missing a game and a plane, flew to Kansas City in the afternoon for last night's NBA date. Dailey failed to appear for Monday night's home game against Milwaukee, then missed the team's morning flight.

"Dailey's absence was due to a personal problem totally unrelated to drugs and alcohol," the team said in a statement. " . . . he will be fined substantially." TENNIS

In Zurich, Beth Herr beat top-seeded Hana Mandlikova in the first round of the $150,000 European women's indoor, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 . . . Jan Gunnarsson, calling it his best victory ever, beat Vitas Gerulaitis, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0, to reach the third round of the $315,000 Scandinavian Open in Stockholm. SKIING

Bill Johnson, who carried out his prediction he would win the 1984 men's Olympic downhill, predicted in an Arlington appearance last night he will win the 1985 World Cup.