Bud Grant, who led the Minnesota Vikings to four Super Bowls, accepted a lifetime contract to return as head coach of the National Football League team, General Manager Mike Lynn said today.

Grant's appointment came a day after the Vikings fired Les Steckel, who led the team in 1984 to its worst season ever with a 3-13 record. "I missed the Sunday afternoons," Grant said in accepting an offer to coach the Vikings for life, "but I admit I never missed the training camps.

"I can coach as long as I like under the terms of the contract."

Lynn and the team's owner, Max Winter made the announcement at Twin Cities International Airport late today after a day of speculation on who would be named.

Grant, who coached the Vikings for 17 seasons, said he was approached by Lynn twice last week before accepting the job.

"Last Wednesday, Mike asked me and I said no. I went pheasant hunting. He asked again Friday and I said no. Max entered the picture, and when Les was actually released I accepted," Grant said.

Grant said the first thing he would do as head coach is to build a coaching staff. "I have no staff now," Grant said. "But it takes time, and I don't expect to be making any announcements tomorrow night."

Grant apologized for telling reporters several times that he was not a candidate for the job.

"That may involve my use of the English language. I apologize for that," he said.

Grant stayed on the payroll this season as a consultant and was honored in an emotional ceremony at the Metrodome in the Vikings' first home game.

Lynn, upset over the team's image during Steckel's short tenure, stayed close to home. He chose Grant, whose stoic sideline manner had become a fixture in the NFL. In his 17 seasons with the Vikings, Grant made the playoffs 12 times and won 15 championships, including 11 Central Division titles, one NFL title in 1969 and three NFC titles in 1973, 1974 and 1976. The Vikings played in four Super Bowls under Grant but lost them all.