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Vikings Sign Chris Doleman

Chris Doleman is back in Minnesota, and the Vikings are hoping their once stout pass rush isn't far behind.

The Vikings on Tuesday signed the 37-year-old pass rusher who had 15 sacks last season with the San Francisco 49ers.

Coach Dennis Green said the eight-time Pro Bowl selection will initially be used as a pass-rushing right end in the team's nickel defense, beginning Sunday at Green Bay.

But Doleman, who turns 38 next month, admitted he wasn't in shape physically after spending the last eight months hitting golf balls instead of quarterbacks.

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"I've haven't been doing anything but hitting the driver, the sand wedge," Doleman said. "I don't even walk on the golf course, I ride."

The Vikings also signed linebacker Corey Miller, whom they cut during training camp. Miller, who sat out last season with a neck injury, was brought back after Kailee Wong pulled a hamstring Sunday, and his replacement, Rob Holmberg, sprained an ankle.

Green said Miller would start at strongside linebacker on Sunday.

Doleman, who got his old No. 56 back from linebacker Pete Bercich, who is on injured reserve, and the Vikings started talking in August after first-round draft pick Dimitruis Underwood went AWOL after one practice. But it took a lingering knee injury to defensive end Martin Harrison to bring them together again.

"It's full circle, it's kind of a homecoming," Doleman said. "It's great to see everybody and it's amazing just how quick the names come back to you."

One player who didn't need any re-introduction was defensive lineman John Randle, who's been double-teamed since moving back inside after playing end last year.

Between 1991-93, Randle and Doleman started 38 games together and amassed 67 1/2 sacks. Green said Doleman's addition will free up Randle to wreak his usual havoc.

"I think Johnny can use some help, make the load easier for everybody on the defensive line," Doleman agreed.

Doleman, who signed a one-year deal for a prorated share of the NFL minimum of $400,000, said his motivation to come out of retirement wasn't money.

"It is basically a chance to win a Super Bowl," he said. "I watched John Elway lift his finger and walk off in the sunset. I felt I would like to have that opportunity. You know, 14 years and I've never had a chance to win a championship."

Doleman, the Vikings' first-round draft choice in 1985 out of Pittsburgh, was one of the best defensive ends in the game during his stint in Minnesota, which lasted until 1993, when he wnt to Atlanta.

He is fourth on the career list with 142 1/2 sacks, all but 60 with the Vikings.

To make room on the roster for Doleman and Miller, the Vikings released fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo, who got into a fight with receiver Chris Walsh at a Twin Cities restaurant on Sunday night, and defensive back Kevin Devine.

They also reached an injury settlement with defensive back Antonio Banks.

Doleman announced his retirement after the 49ers' 20-18 playoff loss to Atlanta in January after finishing the regular season with 15 sacks, the second highest total in his 14-year career. He had 21 in 1989 while with Minnesota.

"His retirement in San Francisco can be considered premature," Green said.

Doleman said this would be his final year in the NFL, Super Bowl or not.

"Straight one-year deal," he said. "I mean, if it happens, it's great. And if it doesn't, I think I aligned myself with the best team with the best opportunity."

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