Don't misunderstand. D.J. Dozier still would like to be the next Bo Jackson -- a multisport star and multimillion-dollar man, one who can run with a football and hit a baseball better than Deion Sanders.

But he decided one sport was enough for him long before he was forced to make a career decision last month. That was when the Minnesota Vikings, for whom he has played three seasons since being their No. 1 draft pick out of Penn State in 1987, refused to ensure him more playing time or trade him.

So Dozier, at 24 a rookie outfielder in the New York Mets organization, walked away from what had been a lucrative football career.

Before doing so, he added his name to a class-action antitrust suit against the National Football League challenging the restrictive free-agent system. Then he walked away from a reported $400,000 per year with the Vikings to play at Class A St. Lucie for an undisclosed signing bonus reportedly in the "low six figures" and a salary of about $1,500 per month.

"I like both sports," said Dozier, who gained 3,227 yards on 624 carries at Penn State but whose Vikings career was stalled last year by the acquisition of Herschel Walker. "But playing both does not allow you to get better at one. I don't think it's realistic to play two sports. It's not fair to the athlete."

If the New York Yankees' management says Sanders (a .150 hitter) chose to give up baseball too soon to pursue his career in the NFL, it appears Dozier came to the right decision just in time.

Stepping on a diamond for the first time since he was a senior shortstop at Kempsville High in Virginia Beach, Dozier, now an outfielder, hit .297 with 13 home runs, 57 RBI and 33 stolen bases with St. Lucie. Recently he earned a promotion to Class AA Jackson, where he has hit above .300.

"He certainly has held his own," said the Mets' director of minor league operations, Gerry Hunsicker. "There had been definite questions over how fast he could move {in the organization}, because the layoff hurt him quite a bit. He is still a bit unpolished, crude in the outfield. . . . His mechanics need some refinement and he is somewhat musclebound. But he has enough promise to play in the major leagues. And, he obviously has enough confidence in himself and commitment to making it that he was willing to give up football."

He could be on the Mets' 40-man roster by spring, Hunsicker said.