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Judge seeks to verify story that led to firing

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Sports Illustrated and one of its writers must reveal confidential sources for an article that led to Alabama's firing of Mike Price, a judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith said the Alabama law protecting newspaper, television and radio reporters from being forced to disclose their sources doesn't extend to magazine reporters.

"If the Legislature had intended for the scope of the statutory privilege to include magazines or other media, it could have done so clearly and unequivocally," Smith wrote.

Price sued Time Inc., which publishes Sports Illustrated, and writer Don Yaeger for $20 million, alleging he was libeled and slandered by the article detailing Price's actions at a strip club in Pensacola, Fla.

Alabama dismissed Price after he acknowledged drinking heavily and visiting the strip club the night before a golf outing. But Price denied the magazine's report that he had sex with two women at a hotel after leaving the bar.

The judge said the coach needed to know the identity of Yaeger's sources to prove whether the allegations were true.

Sports Illustrated spokesman Rick McCabe said the magazine was reviewing the ruling and "will decide what action is appropriate."

Steve Heninger, Price's attorney, called the ruling "big."

"It means getting out of Sports Illustrated's closet and into the open," Heninger said.