MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) _ A Nobel Prize gold medal that police thought had been stolen in a burglary was never really missing, authorities said.

The medal was found safe Thursday in the bank safe deposit box of its owner, University of California physicist Emilio Segre, who won the Nobel Prize jointly with Owen Chamberlain in 1959.

The medal featured in the burglary trial last month of Eugene Ward Williams who was accused of stealing it and many other items from about 100 homes that police said were looted in a two-year crime spree. Segre's home was among them.

Superior Court Judge Richard Arnason promised Williams a lighter sentence if he could aid in recovering the medal.

But it was all a misunderstanding, Deputy District Attorney Barbara Zuniga said. Segre and his wife, Rosa, have been Italy for the past month and were unaware of reports the medal was missing.

Segre is still in Italy. But his wife came home Sunday and was greeted by sympathetic neighbors who gave her newspaper clippings and said they were sorry to hear her husband's Nobel medal was gone.

She telephoned Zuniga and reported that the medal had not been stolen. It was too valuable to keep in the house, she said, so it was stored in the bank safe deposit box.

Before doing that, Mrs. Segre told the prosecutor, the couple had a replica made to keep in the house.

The replica wasn't stolen either, she said. Although the burglar apparently found it, he dropped it on the floor while leaving the house.