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Manning, McNair co-MVPs; Brady 3d

It seems fitting Peyton Manning and Steve McNair shared the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player award. After all, their teams finished with the same record and tied atop the AFC South Division.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished third with eight votes, followed by Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis, the AP Offensive Player of the Year, with five. Kansas City running back Priest Holmes got three votes, and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, the AP Defensive Player of the Year, received two.

In just the third tie since the award began in 1957, the premier passers each received 16 votes yesterday from a nationwide panel of 50 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL.

Manning and McNair led their teams to 12-4 records, with Manning's Indianapolis Colts edging McNair's Tennessee Titans for the AFC South crown by winning both games against the Titans.

But they deadlocked for MVP.

"It is great," McNair said. "My words can't express how I feel being co-MVP with another great quarterback like Peyton. It's very emotional right now for me that people look at me as being one of the top quarterbacks of the NFL, one of the top players, and a co-MVP."

Manning felt the same way.

"This is such a tremendous honor," Manning said. "Obviously you look at all the former winners, it really is an honor to be on that same list, and to have such great teammates and a coaching staff that allowed me to go out and make plays."

McNair led the league with a 100.4 passer rating to Manning's 99.0. Unlike the seemingly indestructible Manning, who's never missed a start in his six pro seasons, McNair has played hurt for much of his career. This season, he missed the last month of practice with a strained right calf and sprained left ankle that also has a cracked bone spur. Those injuries also sidelined him for two games.Manning and McNair make it three straight years a quarterback has been selected most valuable player. Oakland's Rich Gannon won last year and Kurt Warner was the 2001 MVP.

Comeback for Kitna

Jon Kitna's career has been about comebacks.

Written off in college, he made it to the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He led Seattle to the playoffs, only to lose his job. He came to Cincinnati as a starter and lost his job again.

Now, he has pulled off the most unexpected comeback of all. With a Heisman Trophy winner (Carson Palmer) waiting to take his job, Kitna led the Bengals to a long-awaited resurgence, keeping Cincinnati in contention until the final game.

Yesterday he was honored as the Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

"My whole life, I never had anything handed to me," Kitna said. "Nobody thought I was `the guy.' I was always a pretty good athlete, but I was never one that people clamored about or anything like that."

Kitna got them talking during the Bengals' turnaround season. He eliminated his propensity for mistakes and led the Bengals out of their 12-year run as one of the NFL's more woeful teams.

Kitna received eight votes to seven for Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter and six for Baltimore tackle Orlando Brown. Carolina running back Stephen Davis and Kansas City safety Jerome Woods had five each.

Redskins searching

The interviews with former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel -- all three of them -- are done, with Dennis Green on deck in the Washington Redskins' coaching search. Fassel and Redskins owner Dan Snyder concluded more than 12 hours of talks over two days in San Francisco. Both sides will check out other possibilities, with Snyder preparing to talk to Green and Ray Rhodes, and Fassel departing for Arizona, Chicago, and then Buffalo. "The best way to put it is that Dan Snyder has definitely made a favorable impression on Jim," said Fassel's agent, Steve Rosner . . . Tampa Bay Buccaneers director of player personnel Tim Ruskell interviewed for the team's vacant general manager position yesterday. Ruskell, who also met with the Miami Dolphins yesterday about their GM post, met with the sons of Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer in Palm Beach, Fla. Oakland Raiders executive Bruce Allen interviewed for the job Tuesday. The Dolphins are seeking a new GM to replace coach Dave Wannstedt as the person in charge of personnel.

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