Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux plans to end his retirement and return to playing for the team, a source close to the former NHL great said Thursday.

Lemieux wants to return to the ice later this month or in January, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

USA Today, which first reported the story on its Web site Thursday, said Lemieux would resign his position as the Penguins' governor, which means he will not vote on league issues.

The source told The Associated Press that Lemieux will remain involved in the team's operations.

The NHL has no specific rule that prohibits an owner from playing.

Lemieux, 35, retired as a player after the 1996-97 season with 613 goals in 745 regular-season games and became the Penguins' owner in September 1999.

The six-time scoring champion began skating about two weeks ago. In the past 10 days, he has been telling people close to him of his comeback plans.

``It's not appropriate for me to comment at this time,'' said his agent, Tom Reich.

Lemieux won three MVP awards and led the Penguins to two Stanley Cup championships, in 1991 and 1992.

It would not be Lemieux's first comeback.

In 1993, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, or cancer of the lymph nodes, and missed three-quarters of that season. He later sat out the 1994-95 season after recovering from the cancer and a second bout with back trouble, but returned to bring the Penguins to within one victory of a third trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996.

He won his fifth and sixth scoring championships in his final two seasons.

Lemieux has told friends he feels better than he has in years.