NBC currently splits half of NASCAR’s 36-race schedule with Fox as part of a six-year, $2.8 billion deal that began in 2001. The contract expires at the end of next season and NBC informed NASCAR last week that it didn’t want to extend the relationship because the value the network put on the package was far less than the asking price. Chip Ganassi has softened his stance regarding driver Jamie McMurray, who wants out of his contract so he can drive for Roush Racing. McMurray signed a contract in July to drive for Roush beginning in 2007, hoping that the early announcement would force Ganassi to let him leave at the end of this year. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week NBC won’t extend its contract with NASCAR beyond the 2006 season, a person involved in the negotiations told The Associated Press on Friday. ABC/ESPN are expected to replace NBC as one of NASCAR’s television partners, according to a television executive who declined to be identified because the deal wasn’t complete. Sharapova upset Maria Sharapova’s homeland pro tournament debut ended badly Friday when she lost in the quarterfinals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow to Dinara Safina, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5. The world’s top-ranked player trailed 1-5 in the third set and saved a match point in the seventh game against Safina. She rallied to 5-5 and saved another match point on her serve in the 12th game before a wide shot ended the contest. Sharapova struggled to even make it to the quarters. She trailed Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany 1-6, 2-4 Wednesday before Groenefeld withdrew with an ankle injury. Czech teenager Nicole Vaidisova routed former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez 6-3, 6-0 to advance to the Thailand Open semifinals in Bangkok. A’s keep Macha Ken Macha has a new job: His old one. Out last week after three seasons managing the Oakland Athletics, he called general manager Billy Beane one last time to say thanks and wound up Friday with a three-year deal to return. Macha and Beane didn’t talk after the A’s announced negotiations on an extension broke down Oct. 5. Macha now acknowledges the two sides probably should have waited a week after an emotional season to begin the discussions. First base coach Davey Lopes and third base coach Ron Picciolo won’t be back with the San Diego Padres next season. The Padres will not renew the contracts of Lopes, Picciolo and advance scout Jeff Gardner. Camille Johnston has been hired by the Dodgers as senior vice president of communications. In addition, the Dodgers dismissed John Olguin from his position as vice president of public relations, Chris Gutierrez as baseball information coordinator and Paul Gomez as broadcasting publications supervisor. LeBron leaves hospital Cavaliers All-Star forward LeBron James was released from the hospital Friday following a two-night stay because of a virus that caused severe pain in his chest. James was hospitalized Wednesday for what the team initially called a strained pectoral muscle. Philadelphia forward Michael Bradley will miss four to six weeks after having surgery Friday to repair torn cartilage in his knee. Rookie forward Ike Diogu learned he’ll miss the rest of Golden State’s exhibition schedule with a broken left hand. Diogu will be out at least three weeks. Bruschi may return New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi is working toward a return to the Patriots this season, not next thanks to a faster-than-expected recovery from the stroke that sent him to the emergency room just days after playing in his first Pro Bowl. Several obstacles remain: Bruschi has received favorable reports from doctors but not final medical clearance, and others involved in the decision including the team’s lawyers and Bruschi’s family have not signed off on it. Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is angry and embarrassed over accounts of drunkenness and sexual misbehavior by his players on a charter cruise, and said Friday the team will now have a conduct code. Briefly An influential Jesuit magazine close to the Vatican condemned pro boxing as a “legalized form of attempted murder.” The article in Civilta Cattolica, titled “The Immorality of Professional Boxing,” compared the sport to the bloody gladiator contests in ancient Rome. The University of Illinois has appealed an NCAA ruling that could bar the school from hosting championship events at its Urbana-Champaign campus because of the school’s nickname and mascot. The long-expected appeal accuses the NCAA of unfairly characterizing the “Illini’ and “Fighting Illini’ nicknames. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!