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A federal appeals court on Tuesday backed the judge who ruled against the NFL and let quarterback Michael Vick keep more than $16 million in roster bonuses from the Atlanta Falcons.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed Judge David Doty's order saying Vick had already earned the bonuses before his dogfighting conviction, so the money wasn't subject to forfeiture.

Vick served 18 months in prison and is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Doty has long handled matters arising from the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. After Doty ruled in the Vick bonus case, the NFL accused him of bias and sought to end his oversight of its contract with the players union.

The appeals court said the contract should remain under Doty's oversight.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello did not say whether the league planned a further appeal, but he said the 8th Circuit upheld Doty's ruling on Vick's bonuses in large part because it found the contract's forfeiture language ambiguous.

"That is something that we will seek to change at the bargaining table to ensure that bonus payments are paid to players who comply with their contracts and perform on the field," Aiello said.

Vick, a former Atlanta Falcons star, was released from federal custody July 20 after serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence for running a dogfighting ring in Surry County, Va. The Eagles signed Vick to a $1.6 million contract for 2009, with a team option for the second year at $5.2 million, but he has not played much.


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