January 28, 2004 11:48 AM

Perpetual newlywed Jessica Simpson, who will be performing at the Super Bowl this weekend, has signed on to make her feature film debut in “48 Hrs.” director Walter Hill’s “Walk On,” a baseball drama based on a true story about the Texas Rangers, reports Variety.

The plot deals with the team’s near bankruptcy in 1973 — until an 18-year-old named David Clyde was recruited before he could even attend his high-school prom. Only once onboard with the Rangers, Clyde faced the team’s new and difficult coach: Billy Martin.

Simpson, 23, who’s actually from Texas, will play Clyde’s high-school-sweetheart wife, says the trade paper. Also under consideration for roles: Keith Carradine, Sophie B. Hawkins and Donal Logue. Location shooting is expected to begin next year.

In other casting news, veteran actor, generous charitable donor and inveterate racecar driver Paul Newman, 79, will lend his raspy voice to Pixar’s latest, the aptly titled “Cars,” to be directed by John Lasseter (himself a veteran of “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life”), Variety also reports.

Bonnie Hunt, Owen Wilson, Dan Whitney and NASCAR’s Richard Petty also will do their bits for the microphone. The flick, due for Christmas 2005, is described as a high-octane adventure comedy about character-driven cars that get their kicks on Route 66.

For Newman’s participation, says the trade paper, Disney and Pixar will sponsor his Porsche in the Rolex 24 at Daytona Saturday and Sunday — attempting to break his own driving record as the oldest man ever to win a professional race.

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