September 26, 2001 11:23 AM

Hoop legend Michael Jordan made it official. He will return to professional basketball with the Washington Wizards, but he kept his announcement on Tuesday low key in light of the national tragedy. He also said that he would donate his first year’s salary — $1 million — to victims of the terrorist attacks. “I am returning as a player to the game I love,” said Jordan, 38. “I am especially excited about the Washington Wizards, and I’m convinced we have the foundation on which to build a playoff-contention team.” NBA rules will require that Jordan to sell his ownership stake in the Wizards, just as he will have to relinquish his front-office position of president of basketball operations. The five-time league MVP retired for a second time in 1999 after leading the Chicago Bulls to their sixth title of the decade. He never completely ruled out a second comeback, hedging his bets with the statement that he was “99.9%” certain that he’d never bound down the court again. His joining the team should be a boost not only for the Wizards, but for Washington, which is still reeling, both emotionally and financially, from the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon. “I am happy to welcome Michael Jordan, the player, back to the NBA, although, as commissioner, I am sorry to lose him in the board room,” NBA commissioner David Stern said.

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