A federal judge in New York denied a request by the NFL that sought to reduce the damages sought by the U.S. Football League in its $1.3 billion antitrust suit.

In the case, set to go to trial May 12, the USFL claimed damages of $440 million, based on projections of broadcast earnings and other revenues the league might have earned since 1983 if it had been able to compete in the fall.

Antitrust laws permit damages to be tripled, thus the USFL's $1.3 billion claim. The league competed three seasons in the spring before deciding to take on the NFL this fall . . .

Detroit Lions running back Billy Sims says it would take a miracle for him to return to the NFL and that he probably will retire.

"You've got to go home sometime. Even my boys are tackling me now. It's time to hang it up," Sims said Tuesday at the Silverdome on a visit from his Texas home. Sims, 30, severely injured his right knee in the eighth game of the 1984 season and, despite strenuous rehabilitation, said his knee still hurts and that he cannot run at full speed.

"It really hasn't gotten any better, and it hasn't gotten any worse. If it's like it is now in July -- I'll know what my decision will be."