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Paralyzed Pitt Player Settles Suit

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The University of Pittsburgh settled a lawsuit by a paralyzed football player, but the amount the player will be paid was in dispute Tuesday.

Lawyers for Demale Stanley said he will get $31 million, but the university put the sum at about $5 million.

Stanley contended the university and football coaches, including Johnny Majors, were negligent during an indoor practice four years ago when the player hit a padded concrete wall headfirst.

``Nothing can replace what I lost, but it does bring some closure,'' Stanley said. ``I can focus on getting better and recovering.''

The 23-year-old Stanley now helps at football practices at a Florida high school. He said he drew inspiration from conversations with former Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino.

University spokesman Ken Service said that in addition to the settlement, the university paid all of Stanley's medical bills under insurance required by the NCAA and provided to all football players.

He said the university admitted no negligence but was happy the case was over with a ``reasonable settlement.''

The $31 million settlement was reported Tuesday in the Palm Beach Post, based on a statement from Stanley's lawyers. Willie Gary, one of the lawyers, did not return a message Tuesday.

Stanley, of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., was injured during a spring 1996 practice. His lawyers said coaches routinely had Stanley run routes near a concrete wall. They said he ran into the wall the previous day, but no corrections were made to prevent an accident.

Majors, who retired after the 1996 season but remains a university fund-raiser, declined comment. He and other coaches were defendants in the case.

Stanley was trying to catch a high pass March 22, 1996, when his legs became tangled and he ran into a wall.

Doctors fused two of his vertebrae. Stanley said he can feel tingling in his legs and feet and has some movement in one wrist, although not enough to grip anything.

``This happened. I can't walk,'' he said. ``But having a great family and friends has helped me through. There's been so much progress in research. Who knows?''

The Cost Center where Stanley was hurt was closed last season after Pitt Stadium was demolished. The Panthers will move July 1 to a new training facility that it will share with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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