Richie Petitbon, the Washington Redskins' assistant head coach/defense, still is a top candidate for the New Orleans Saints' head coaching job, Saints General Manager Jim Finks said today.

Finks said Baltimore Stars Coach Jim Mora and Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan are two other candidates for the job.

On the basis of Finks' decisions when he was with Minnesota and Chicago, Mora would seem to have the inside track. Finks hired Bud Grant, a proven Canadian Football League coach, for the Vikings, and was against the hiring of Mike Ditka, then a Dallas assistant, for the Bears. In each case, Finks preferred the coach with the greater experience.

The city itself is perhaps Petitbon's biggest selling point, Finks said. Petitbon is from New Orleans.

"He's real popular in the area," Finks said.

Petitbon could not be reached for comment.

Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Gene Stallings has had a second interview with St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, who is also seeking a head coach.

Bidwill and Stallings met last weekend, but Stallings would not comment on the meeting. Stallings, a Cowboys assistant since 1972, was the first to be interviewed by Bidwill, about a month ago. Petitbon and Redskins assistant Jerry Rhome also were interviewed.

Bidwill also is believed to be interested in San Francisco 49ers assistant George Siefert and Rod Rust, defensive coordinator with the New England Patriots.

A spokesman for the Cardinals said Monday night there would be no decision on a replacement for the fired Jim Hanifan until after the Super Bowl.

The Illinois State Acupuncture Association is flying two acupuncturists to New Orleans to treat Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon's bruised backside, despite objections to the procedure from team officials.

McMahon, who suffered the injury to his left buttock Jan. 12 during the Bears' NFC championship victory over the Los Angeles Rams, didn't practice last week because it was painful to run, sit and follow through on passes.

McMahon said Monday the pain was partly relieved after a treatment by Hiroshi Shiriashi, a trainer for the Japanese national track team, and that he wanted three more twice-a-day treatments.

But Bears President Mike McCaskey said he preferred McMahon get conventional medical treatment and refused Shiriashi permission to travel with the team to New Orleans.

Kenneth Sims, New England's best defensive lineman, may be activated for Sunday after missing the previous six games with a broken leg, the Patriots' team doctor said today.

"The bone is healed well enough for normal walking," Dr. Bertram Zarins after an examination. "It's just borderline enough to allow full running on it."

Zarins added that he expected that Sims' leg would get stronger each day before Sunday's game.