After winning his seventh Tour de France title, Lance Armstrong stepped off the winner's podium in Paris and into retirement, declaring, "I'm finished."

Six weeks later, he's already talking about a comeback.

Armstrong issued a statement yesterday confirming that he's contemplating a return to cycling in part because he knows how much it would rankle the French media who believe his record of seven straight Tour wins is tainted by drug use.

"While I'm absolutely enjoying my time as a retired athlete with Sheryl [Crow] and the kids, the recent smear campaign out of France has awoken my competitive side," Armstrong said. "I'm not willing to put a percentage on the chances, but I will no longer rule it out."

On Aug. 23, the French newspaper L'Equipe reported it had evidence that six of Armstrong's urine samples from the '99 Tour tested positive last year for the blood booster EPO. The substance was banned in 1999, before there was a reliable test.

Armstrong, 33, has angrily denied the charge, saying he was a victim of a "setup."

* COURTS: Two Central Michigan football players, including star running back Jerry Seymour, were charged in the fatal beating of a 26-year-old man, the Isabella County (Mich.) prosecutor said.

A third player and a student also were arraigned on charges stemming from the July 2004 death of Demarcus Graham, prosecutor Larry Burdick said.

Seymour, a junior, and Spencer Lewis, a junior running back, were arraigned on one count each of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, assault with intent to do great bodily harm and perjury.

James Edward Cooper Jr., a senior defensive tackle, was charged with two counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of accessory after the fact.

Graham was beaten unconscious outside a bar during a fight on June 25, 2004. He died 19 days later at St. Mary's Hospital in Saginaw.

* HOCKEY: New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens, 41, announced his retirement after more than two decades in the NHL, saying a year off showed him that he could live without hockey.

General Manager Lou Lamoriello said that Stevens, a 13-time all-star who has played more NHL games than any other defenseman during his 22 seasons, will stay with the team in some capacity.

* AUTO RACING: NASCAR released the 2006 Nextel Cup Series schedule, a 36-race slate virtually identical to this season.

Richmond International Raceway's spring race will move up to May 6 and Darlington Raceway's race will follow on May 13. Kansas Speedway's race will be Oct. 1, while Talladega will run Oct. 8.

Next season will begin with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 19 and end with the Ford 400 on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

* COLLEGE BASKETBALL: North Carolina freshman Marcus Ginyard (O'Connell) had surgery to repair a broken left wrist, but should be able to play when practice begins in October. Ginyard was injured during a pickup game in July.

-- From News Services