BRISTOL, Conn. — Are you ready for some football? Hank Williams Jr. isn't anymore.
The country singer and ESPN each took credit for the decision Thursday morning to ax his classic intro to Monday Night Football.
The network had pulled the song from the game earlier this week after Williams made an analogy to Adolf Hitler while discussing President Barack Obama on Fox News on Monday morning.
"After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision," Williams said in a statement to The Associated Press. "By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It's been a great run."
But ESPN's statement said: "We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr. We appreciate his contributions over the past years. The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue."
Regardless of whose call it was, one of sports' and entertainment's most visible partnerships is over. The song had been a Monday Night Football staple since 1989 and survived the game's switch of networks from ABC to cable a few years ago.
ESPN will no longer have access to the music or words because Williams owns the publishing rights, the master recordings and the song. Williams, the son of country music icon Hank Williams, is known for his bombastic manner and strong opinions.
Manning hopes to practice
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning told reporters Thursday he is progressing well from his latest neck surgery, that his rehab regimen is increasing and that he is hopeful of returning to the practice field before this season ends.
"I think you have to have hope until the doctors rule you out," the four-time league MVP said.
Bill Polian, the vice chairman, and Chris Polian, the general manager, want to keep Manning on the active roster as long as possible so he can at least return to practice this season. Team owner Jim Irsay believes Manning could be back to practice in December.
Indy's franchise quarterback has missed all four games since the Sept. 8 procedure, his third neck surgery in 19 months.
Around the league
Dolphins: Another loss for winless Miami: Quarterback Chad Henne is out for the season. Henne decided to have shoulder surgery and was placed on the injured reserve list Thursday.
The Dolphins replaced him on the roster by signing veteran quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who was released Tuesday by the New York Giants after recovering from a blood disorder that sent him to the hospital in August. Matt Moore will make his first start for the Dolphins in their next game Oct. 17 against the New York Jets.
Vikings: Cornerback Antoine Winfield was again held out of practice Thursday with a neck strain. Coach Leslie Frazier said the team might have to make a game-time decision on whether Winfield plays Sunday against Arizona.
Jets: All-Pro center Nick Mangold expects to return this week after missing the last two games with a high right ankle sprain. He and Coach Rex Ryan think he'll play Sunday at New England.