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AP Source: Mannings agree to join Grizzlies' group

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, wife Ashley, and former NBA player Penny Hardaway have agreed to join the group of minority owners for the Memphis Grizzlies, said a person familiar with the deal.

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The Mannings and Hardaway join a minority group that includes singer and actor Justin Timberlake and a couple of Memphis businessmen, the person told The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because prospective buyer Robert J. Pera's purchase of the Grizzlies is pending approval by the NBA.

The addition of Manning and Hardaway first was reported by The Chris Vernon Show on WMFS-FM on Thursday.

Pera, owner of a California tech company, agreed to buy the Grizzlies from Michael Heisley in June for $350 million. The NBA is expected to approve the sale this month.

Since agreeing to buy the Grizzlies, Pera has been busy lining up his own group of minority owners including AutoZone founder J.R. ``Pit'' Hyde and businessman Staley Cates who were minority owners with Heisley. Pera also has worked to add plenty of local star power to the group as well.

Timberlake was born in Memphis. Hardaway is a Memphis native who played collegiately at then-Memphis State. Ashley Manning married Peyton there on St. Patrick's Day in 2001. Peyton Manning played at the University of Tennessee across the state in Knoxville.

The four-time NFL MVP is supporting his wife in this venture with his name not expected to be on any of the paperwork involved. The Mannings issued statements to The Associated Press on Thursday, and Peyton said he is proud of his wife as she pursues this opportunity.

``While my focus is on playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos, I look forward to watching her become involved with her hometown team,'' Peyton Manning said.

Ashley Manning is very excited to commit to the Grizzlies' new ownership group.

``As a native of Memphis, it was important to me that the Grizzlies remain in Tennessee and continue to have a positive impact on the community,'' she said.

Manning's involvement will not be a conflict for the quarterback with the NFL, according to league spokesman Greg Aiello.

Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said Tuesday that the ownership change will not affect the players themselves or change what they have to do on the court. But they all have heard about Pera, a former Apple engineer who left in 2005 to start Ubiquiti Networks, a communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment.

``We've heard a lot of good things about him, and his intentions are all good,'' Conley said. ``I know the city of Memphis should be excited. As a team, we are excited. It's going to be a different expectation for us, and we're just looking forward to taking it on.''

The Grizzlies open the season Oct. 31 at the Los Angeles Clippers.

---

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report from Englewood, Colo.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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