The New Orleans Saints have released interim coach Wade Phillips and the rest of the club's coaching staff, team officials announced today.

A news release from the Saints' office said the men "are free to seek employment with other organizations" and that Phillips is "no longer in contention for the Saints' head coaching job."

Saints owner Tom Benson and new general manager, Jim Finks, are continuing discussions with candidates for head coach, the release said. The Washington Redskins' defensive coordinator, Richie Petitbon, reportedly is among the candidates.

Dante Scarnecchia, the Patriots' special teams coach, confirmed that receiver Irving Fryar will return punts Sunday against the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.

Fryar, the league's leading punt returner during the season with a 14.1-yard average, suffered lacerations on his right hand two weeks ago, reportedly in a dispute with his wife.

New England guard Ron Wooten said the Patriots ceased being awed by Chicago's reputation when, "We saw them getting off the bus and we thought they'd have an 'S' on their chest. They didn't. They were limping the same way we were."

Chicago's Mike Ditka was named coach of the year by The Sporting News. The St. Louis-based sports weekly said Ditka received 22 of 28 votes by his peers. Super Bowl players named to the publication's all-pro team were running back Walter Payton, offensive tackle Jim Covert and linebacker Mike Singletary of Chicago and offensive guard John Hannah and linebacker Andre Tippett of New England.

U.S. football, which the Chinese call "olive ball" because of the shape of the ball, will make its debut on Chinese television Sunday with the Super Bowl.

T.L.I. International Corp., a marketing firm specializing in U.S.-Chinese trade, said it has completed initial arrangements to show the game in two provinces and expects approval for the game to be telecast throughout the country -- 300 million viewers -- according to Lyric Hughes, president of the firm.