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STAR gridiron quarterback Michael Vick looks set to trade in his career for jail, after agreeing to plead guilty to running an illegal dog-fighting ring. The Atlanta Falcons player has been accused by his co-defendants of helping to drown or hang at least eight pitbull terriers that under-performed in dog fights. The case against Vick, which alleges that dogs that lost fights were electrocuted, shot, drowned or hanged, has been met with widespread disgust and outrage across America.

Vick has reportedly pocketed more than $US60 million from his dazzling six-season career in the National Football League, which began when he was the league's No. 1 pick in 2001.

He is expected to be sentenced next week and faces up to five years' jail and $US250,000 in fines. He is tipped to spend about a year behind bars.

Vick's lawyer, Billy Martin, said the player had accepted a plea deal after consulting his family. Mr Martin said Vick would accept full responsibility for the mistakes he has made.

"Michael wishes to apologise again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter," he said. Vick's decision to accept a plea deal from federal prosecutors came as a Grand Jury was hearing evidence against him.

The hearing could have decided to lay harsher charges against the player, including racketeering and gambling. Vick's career, endorsements and reputation are now in tatters. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already banned Vick from Falcons training. He faces a lifetime ban from football under the league's personal conduct policy.

The dynamic player, who was the No. 1 NFL pick in 2001, has already suffered a backlash from sponsors, with Nike suspending the release of a new Michael Vick shoe and Reebok withdrawing his jerseys from sale.

Three co-defendants of Vick had already agreed to plea deals that required them to provide statements against Vick, who initially denied having any involvement.

Vick is accused of bankrolling the "Bad Newz Kennels" operation on Vick's Virginia property. The investigation into his alleged dog fighting activities began in April when dozens of pitbull dogs and dog-fighting equipment was found on the property.

The court documents say the search found about 54 American pitbull terriers, some of which had scars and injuries appearing to be related to dog fighting.


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