CINCINNATI (AP) _ Deion Sanders was added to the Cincinnati Reds' 40-man roster Thursday, a procedural move made in case he ever decides to play baseball again.

Sanders has remained under minor league contract with the Reds since he returned to playing cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys full-time in 1997.

If the Reds hadn't purchased Sanders' minor league contract and added him to the 40-man roster, he could have been taken by another team in the Rule 5 draft.

The move Thursday basically ensures that if Sanders ever decides to return to baseball, the Reds will keep the rights to him. Sanders is close to Reds general manager Jim Bowden and visited the Reds last season, sitting on the bench for a game at Cinergy Field.

Sanders played center field and batted leadoff for the Reds in 1994-95 and again in 1997, when he decided it was too difficult to be a two-sport star. The Reds gave him permission to leave late that season to become a full-time football player.

In an interview with The Sporting News earlier this month, Sanders said he hadn't ruled out returning to play baseball someday. He's under contract with the Cowboys through 2003.