CHICAGO (AP) _ Dennis Rodman's momentum carried him past the baseline, where he stumbled over a television cameraman.

Yes, a cameraman. Again.

This time, there was no kick, no angry scowl, no fallen victim. This time, Rodman did the right thing.

The Bulls' wayward forward smiled, gently tapped the chest of WGN-TV cameraman Tommy Skinner and walked away. And Chicago went on to beat the Charlotte Hornets 103-100 Tuesday on Michael Jordan's 3-pointer at the buzzer.

``It would have been a classic if I kissed him,'' said Rodman, who was coming off an 11-game suspension for kicking a cameraman. ``But he probably would have sued me for slobbering all over him.''

Actually, Rodman admitted his first thought was to avoid trouble, a curious thought for someone who has been suspended three times in the last 11 months.

``I just said, `Are you all right? Are you all right? Please tell me you're all right!''' Rodman said.

Skinner was all right, and so was Rodman _ whose mind flashed back to Jan. 15, the last game he had played. On that chilly Minnesota night, he made the wrong choice, kicking cameraman Eugene Amos after falling out of bounds.

That resulted in the second-longest suspension in NBA history and a $200,000 out-of-court settlement with Amos. It also drew criticism from teammates Jordan and Scottie Pippen, from many former basketball stars and even from President Clinton.

So when he did the right thing this time, Rodman couldn't resist taking a dig at the commissioner who had punished him: ``Are you happy, David Stern?''

Stern probably was happy, but no happier than the Bulls, who want their tattooed teammate to help them repeat as champions.

In recent weeks, Jordan and Pippen had grown increasingly dismayed about Rodman. Jordan said he and Rodman had ``no relationship,'' and Pippen said Rodman ``doesn't give a damn about most things.''

Both applauded Rodman's demeanor Tuesday _ not to mention his 14 rebounds and body-to-body defense on Charlotte standout Anthony Mason. Jordan even hugged Rodman and said, ``Welcome back,'' after hitting the winning shot.

Nevertheless, Rodman wasn't happy about the recent rebukes.

``If you don't want to stick behind me, don't say nothing about me at all,'' the league's top rebounder said. ``My goal is just to win a championship. I guess if I do that, people are going to love me again. If I do something wrong, people are going to hate me.''

Rodman also took a shot at those among the 50 all-time NBA greats who used last weekend's All-Star festivities to give Rodman's act a thumbs-down.

``A few of those guys said, `Kick his butt out,''' he said. ``They're just bitter because their time is past.''

Rodman's final putdown on the night of his triumphant return was reserved for his father, Philander, who watched the game after having not seen his son for three decades.

The elder Rodman was flown to Chicago from the Philippines by a tabloid television show in exchange for exclusive interviews. He sat in the lower section behind the basket, often signing autographs for curious fans.

The son made it clear he wanted nothing to do with the father.

``My reaction to my dad is he comes to see one of his kids, and only one of his kids has money,'' said Rodman, supposedly only one of his father's 27 offsprings. ``That's all he's looking for. He's looking to claim fame.''

Philander was just one of 23,884 fans who cheered throughout the night for Rodman, who has pledged to donate the salary from his first 11 post-suspension games to charity.

Upon entering the United Center, Rodman said he thought the fans would ``boo the hell out of me.'' Instead, he was greeted with a loud ovation when introduced as a starter.

``I think they thought, `Well, he's going to give a million to charity. We can't boo him,''' Rodman said. ``I've always said I like the fans of Chicago.''