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Fires move Monday night game to Tempe  
NFL.com wire reports

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 26, 2003) -- The NFL moved Monday night's Chargers-Dolphins game from San Diego to Tempe, Ariz., because of wildfires in the San Diego area.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement that the city of San Diego advised the league it could not play the game in Qualcomm Stadium.

The sky throughout the county was choked with smoke and ash from three fast-moving fires that burned more than 264,000 acres, killed 13 people and burned nearly 650 homes by Sunday evening. The state's largest fire, in eastern San Diego County, caused at least nine deaths.

Statement from the NFL
The residents of greater San Diego are suffering from terrible fires, and public health and safety are the urgent priorities.

The City of San Diego has advised us that under these circumstances, Monday night's game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins cannot be played at Qualcomm Stadium.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has directed that Monday night's game be played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., at 9:00 p.m. ET. This decision will allow San Diego public safety agencies to maintain their full focus on protecting the lives and property of San Diego residents.

The game will be televised live on ABC-TV as usual.

Mayor Dick Murphy urged the NFL to either postpone or move the game and Tagliabue complied.

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said he also told the league the game shouldn't be played in San Diego.

"I just can't see us turning around and going to our stadium and playing Monday Night Football," he said. "There's too much devastation going on for that. Too much.

"I think the league did the right thing. To turn around and run out of the tunnel at Qualcomm with all the things going on, it wasn't right for me."

Monday night's game was to be a homecoming for linebacker Junior Seau, who played his first 13 seasons in San Diego before joining the Dolphins this year as a free agent.

"Moving the game is very disappointing to everyone," Seau said, "but obviously for the safety of everyone it is probably the best decision to make right now.

"Our prayers are with the San Diego residents and everyone that is affected by it."

Tickets to the game on the campus of Arizona State University will be free, but people will be asked to make a donation to the San Diego Wildfire Relief Fund.

"Many of us visit San Diego. Obviously it's a neighboring community that's got some real problems," Cardinals vice president and general counsel Michael Bidwill said. "We can all raise a little bit of money ... and try to help out our friends over in San Diego."

Chargers ticket holders will get full refunds, the team said.

Qualcomm Stadium's parking lot was turned into a major evacuation center as residents from several surrounding neighborhoods were ordered out of their homes by authorities.

The Dolphins left Miami on Sunday morning aware that the San Diego airport could be closed when they arrived. But the airport reopened by the time they reached California.

They left their equipment on the chartered plane, held their scheduled meetings as planned in a San Diego hotel, and were scheduled to leave early Monday morning for Tempe.

"The game of football is secondary right now, and I hate to see it happen to my hometown or any hometown," Seau said.

The NFL moved a game between the Patriots and 49ers from Candlestick Park in San Francisco to Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif., on Oct. 22, 1989, after the Bay Area earthquake damaged Candlestick.

In 1992, the league rescheduled the season opener between New England and Miami from Sept. 6 to Oct. 18 because of damage from Hurricane Andrew.

Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe is the home of the Arizona Cardinals, who beat San Francisco 16-13 there in Week 8.

This will be the fourth Monday night game at Sun Devil Stadium. The last one was in 1999, when 49ers quarterback Steve Young's career was ended on a hit by Aeneas Williams of Arizona.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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