Muhammad Ali isn't really serious about climbing back into the ring.

"Sorry, folks, not this time," he said in a statement released yesterday in which his publicist said he was not being serious when he wrote in the current issue of Newsweek magazine that he planned a return. "It was just me being me."

In the article he wrote for Newsweek, the 57-year-old three-time heavyweight champion said he wanted to fight again and that he planned to get in shape despite his Parkinson's disease that has slowed his speech and movement.

"Now I'm fighting Parkinson's disease. But I don't let it stop me. I still travel, attend to my business, do interviews," Ali wrote.

"And let me tell you something that'll shock the Earth. I'm going to train and get in really good shape, lose 35 pounds and do an exhibition in Madison Square Garden with two or three contenders," he wrote. "I'll dance for 15 rounds, and whup 'em. I haven't forgotten. I'll be weighing in at 210 pounds. I'll just say, 'I am returned. Get the contract.' "

But Ali backed off that in an open letter to his fans.

"Although my interview with Newsweek was a serious one, my claim to return to the ring was said in jest," he said. "It is exciting that I can still get this kind of response from the press and public with the prospect of my returning to the ring."

Ali last fought professionally on Dec. 11, 1981, a 10-round loss to Trevor Berbick. He finished with a 56-5 record and 37 knockouts. . . .

British boxer Adrian Dodson was banned for 18 months for biting his opponent during a Commonwealth middleweight title fight. The British Boxing Board of Control cited Dodson for "bringing the sport into disrepute." In addition to the ban, he was fined $1,600.

The board ruled that Dodson was guilty of biting Canada's Alain Bonnamie in the 12th and final round of their Oct. 5 bout in London. Dodson said he would consider an appeal.

"We had a fair hearing but the sentence is very harsh," the 29-year-old Dodson said. "Mike Tyson served only one year after chewing Evander Holyfield's ear. We will think about an appeal."

On July 9, 1997, Tyson's boxing license was revoked by Nevada authorities. He was fined $3 million, with reinstatement possible after a year.

Dodson was five rounds ahead on referee John Keane's scorecard with just 50 seconds remaining at London's Royal National Hotel when the fighters tangled on the ropes and Bonnamie emerged with bite marks to his midsection. Dodson was immediately disqualified.

Auto Racing

Ferrari Appeal

The Ferrari motor racing team will have an appeal against its disqualification from Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang heard in Paris on Friday, Formula One's ruling body said.

Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher were disqualified after finishing first and second, respectively, in Sunday's penultimate race of the season because their car's deflector panels did not conform to the sport's rules. McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen was promoted from third to first after the ruling, thereby earning enough points to retain his world drivers' title.

The Federation Internationale del Automobile said its International Court of Appeal will hear Ferrari's appeal at its Paris offices at 9:30 a.m. Friday. The Court of Appeal consists of 15 judges with motor sports backgrounds who no longer are involved in the sport. At least three of them will preside over the hearing, FIA said.

The Ferrari team acknowledged its deflector panels were not legal, but said they didn't improve the performance of the vehicle. The panels channel air to the side and rear of the car to help cool the engine and improve stability.


Flyers Sign Samuelsson

The Philadelphia Flyers signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Ulf Samuelsson to a two-year contract, the team said.

Samuelsson split last season between the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, who acquired him in March for their playoff run. He had four goals and eight assists in 71 games last season, adding three assists in nine playoff games. Detroit traded Samuelsson, 35, to the Atlanta Thrashers after the season. He became a free agent on July 1.


Honorin' Hank

Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and other Georgia lawmakers will honor Hank Aaron on Capitol Hill today. The House of Representatives will vote on the resolution, and then hold a news conference. Chambliss and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) introduced the resolution in August to congratulate Aaron on the 25th anniversary of breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record.


Wolters Replaces Cooper

Kara Wolters of the Houston Comets was added to the USA Basketball women's senior national team roster, replacing WNBA teammate Cynthia Cooper.

Wolters, who played at the University of Connecticut, played five games for the team during last month's U.S. Olympic Cup and USA Basketball Invitational.

A member of the 1998 world championship gold medal team, she will play during the upcoming 12-game NCAA tour from Nov. 1 through Dec. 12.


Courier Advances

Jim Courier continued his quest for his first title in 18 months with a hard-fought three-set victory over Arnaud Di Pasquale of France in the opening round of the $725,000 Lyon Grand Prix in Lyon, France.

Courier, who last won a tournament in April 1998, labored to beat Di Pasquale, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5, in their first meeting. Courier, who lost in the final in Lyon in 1994 to Switzerland's Marc Rosset, will play Australia's Mark Philippoussis in the second round.

In other first-round matches, American Chris Woodruff, seeking his second title of the season, beat Arnaud Clement of France, 6-4, 6-2; Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia beat Gianluca Pozzi of Italy, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; American qualifier Richey Reneberg advanced when Jens Knippschild of Germany retired with lower back pains after losing the opening set, 6-3; 1995 champion Wayne Ferreira beat French qualifier Jerome Hanquez, 6-4, 6-3; and 1997 champion Fabrice Santoro of France lost, 6-1, 6-1, to Rainer Schuttler of Germany.


No Holding Up Pele

Soccer great Pele said that he and his wife, Assyria, escaped unharmed from an attempted holdup when their chauffeur-driven car stopped at a red light in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The holdup man demanded that the car's occupants turn over all their money and jewelry, but when he saw who was inside, he put away his gun, apologized and quickly left.

"When he realized he was holding up Pele, he simply said he was sorry and quickly disappeared without taking anything," said an employee at Pele's office who asked not to be identified.

Pele did not report the incident to police.