Ricky Williams has a San Diego homecoming, too

Updated: October 26, 2003, 11:53 PM ET

SAN DIEGO -- 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 Sunday night 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.

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 being traded to the Dolphins this year.

"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.

"People can come through, get their ticket and then make a donation," Cardinals vice president and general counsel Michael Bidwill said. "I would just encourage everyone in the Phoenix are to come out and support this.

"Many of us visit San Diego. Obviously it's a neighboring community that's got some real problems. 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 for the game, the team said.

Trucks were driving some of the equipment for ABC's "Monday Night Football" telecast the six hours from San Diego to Tempe. Those involved with the broadcast were driving to Burbank, where they were scheduled to fly to Tempe. Analyst John Madden was the exception -- he was taking his bus to Arizona.

It would be the first "Monday Night Football" game this season not shown in high-definition, and the network would have fewer cameras available.

"I'm sure the viewer really won't notice anything different," ABC spokesman Mark Mandel 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. NFL network telecasts were pre-empted in the San Diego area for coverage of the fires.

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 Sunday night 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.

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.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index