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Puffy, J.Lo Break It Off

J.Lo, say it ain't so.

Rap star Sean "Puffy" Combs and singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, rumored for weeks to be on the brink of a breakup, have ended their romance after more than two years, his spokeswoman said Wednesday in a St. Valentine's Day announcement.

Word that the Harlem-born hip-hop mogul and the Latina bombshell from the Bronx were splitting up came as Combs, 31, stood trial in New York on an illegal weapons charge while Lopez, 30, was off promoting her chart-topping album, J.Lo.

"Mr. Combs confirmed that he and his love, Jennifer Lopez, have in fact broken up," his publicist, Nathalie Moar, said in a statement. "Mr. Combs is confirming this today as he wanted to put all the rumors surrounding their relationship to rest. At this difficult time we ask that you respect his privacy."

Lopez's spokesman, Alan Nierob, said he could not confirm or deny that the romance was over, though he noted the well-placed source of the information. "Puffy Combs put out a statement confirming the demise of their relationship. I don't know anything about it. It's been read to me."

By coincidence, Combs' highly publicized trial in Manhattan Superior Court opened two weeks ago as Lopez was enjoying a remarkable wave of success in both her singing and acting careers. Her second musical release, "J.Lo," debuted at the top of the pop album charts, and her new hit film, The Wedding Planner, held the No. 1 U.S. movie ranking until it was gobbled up by last weekend's opening of Hannibal.

Combs is having other problems as well. He is suing a man who he had hoped would help him write his autobiography, saying the writer ditched him after accepting $325,000 to do the job.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan claims Combs made the deal with Mikal Gilmore after Gilmore's cover story for Rolling Stone about the rap mogul.

The men sold the book proposal to Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, on Dec. 7, 1998, according to the lawsuit.

Work on the book was to begin in March 2000. The lawsuit alleges that Gilmore's lawyer notified Combs in April that Gilmore would not serve as the collaborating author but would be willing to offer "consulting" help. Gilmore could not be reached for comment at a business listed on the lawsuit as a contact for the writer.

Last weekend, Lopez hosted and performed on Saturday Night Live, opening the show with an encore appearance in the plunging, sheer Versace dress she wore to last year's Grammy Awards.

Combs, a leading record producer and rap star whose empire includes Bad Boy Records and the Sean John clothing line, is charged with gun possession and bribery in connection with a December 1999 nightclub fracas in Times Square in which three people were shot. Witnesses testified last week that they saw him holding a gun before shooting erupted.

If convicted of illegal gun possession, Combs faces 15 year in prison. Lopez, who was with Combs the night of the altercation and sped away with him in a sports utility vehicle after the shooting, was questioned by authorities but was not charged in the case.

The status of the Lopez-Combs romance, which began in late 1998, has been the subject of gossip columns and tabloid speculation for weeks. Reports, denied by the couple, circulated recently that she had left Combs for a male dancer who appears in one of her music video.

Lopez herself added to the fray in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, saying their relationship was intact but strained by the pull of their busy careers.

"He's said to me many times, 'I want a divorce,' " she was quoted as saying in Rolling Stone. "I'll be away so much, or he'll be ... but he'll say, 'so, where do I send the papers?' "

She also alluded to differences in their lifestyles. While Combs has "been a going-out-to-clubs person all his life," Lopez said, she described herself as a "homebody."

"So we switch off what we do when we're together," she said.

Combs and Lopez are the latest in a string of celebrity couples whose relationships have come apart in recent weeks, including Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, Nicolas Cage and Patricia Arquette and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.