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The 50 highest-earning American athletes

  • 21
    Brett Favre

    Brett Favre

    Minnesota Vikings (NFL)

    Last Year's Rank: NR
    1. $17,000,000
    2. $7,000,000
    3. $24,000,000

    Favre has plenty of reasons to return for a 20th season: He's due to earn $13 million in salary in 2010 on top of a $4 million deferred-salary paycheck from 2009 that he received this past March.

  • 22
    Jermaine O'Neal

    Jermaine O'Neal

    Boston Celtics (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 20
    1. $23,016,000
    2. $250,000
    3. $23,266,000

    O'Neal was the second-highest paid player in the NBA last season and will team with Boston's Big Three to try to help lead the Celtics to another championship.

  • 23
    Amar'e Stoudemire

    Amar'e Stoudemire

    New York Knicks (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 32
    1. $16,378,325
    2. $6,750,000
    3. $23,128,325

    New York had hoped to land LeBron, but instead got Stoudemire, not a bad consolation prize. Stoudemire opted out of a $17.6 million option to sign a five-year, $100 million deal with New York.

  • 24
    Tracy McGrady

    Tracy McGrady

    Free Agent (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 15
    1. $22,483,124
    2. $250,000
    3. $22,733,124

    In the final season of a seven-year, $93 million deal, T-Mac posted his worst statistics in every offensive category since becoming a starter 10 years ago. He was also the NBA's third-highest paid in '09-10.

  • 25
    Carmelo Anthony

    Carmelo Anthony

    Denver Nuggets (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 25
    1. $15,779,912
    2. $6,000,000
    3. $21,779,912

    Talk about a side project. Melo and wife La La Vasquez recently bought a $2 million L.A. home that will be the primary set of a VH1 reality series airing this fall documenting their July nuptials.

  • 26
    John Lackey

    John Lackey

    Boston Red Sox (MLB)

    Last Year's Rank: NR
    1. $21,500,000
    2. $200,000
    3. $21,700,000

    If the BoSox are at all worried over the Texan's bad elbow, they sure didn't show it -- the first year of his five-year, $82.5 million deal is the priciest, with an $18 million salary and a $3.5 million signing bonus.

  • 27
    Paul Pierce

    Paul Pierce

    Boston Celtics (NBA)

    Last Year's Rank: 24
    1. $19,795,712
    2. $1,800,000
    3. $21,595,712

    Piece made a significant gamble by opting out of the final year of his contract, leaving $21 million on the table. He re-signed with the Celtics, inking a four-year, $60 million pact, giving him security should there be a lockout.

  • 28
    Darrius Heyward-Bey

    Darrius Heyward-Bey

    Oakland Raiders (NFL)

    Last Year's Rank: NR
    1. $21,430,000
    2. $75,000
    3. $21,505,000

    Creative accounting by the Raiders included no signing bonus for last year's surprise No. 7 pick, but $20.7 million in combined option and roster bonuses following a disappointing rookie season.

  • 29
    Jeff Gordon

    Jeff Gordon

    Auto Racing

    Last Year's Rank: 21
    1. $6,476,460
    2. $15,000,000
    3. $21,476,460

    Gordon's foundation is again raffling off a Corvette owned by the NASCAR giant, with proceeds going to children's cancer research. Over four years, the event has raised more than $1.3 million.

  • 30
    Vernon Wells

    Vernon Wells

    Toronto Blue Jays (MLB)

    Last Year's Rank: NR
    1. $21,000,000
    2. $250,000
    3. $21,250,000

    The signature that keeps on giving: Wells' seven-year, $126 million extension in '06 included a $25.5 million signing bonus. The Jays' slugger just collected the last $8.5 million installment in March.

Sources: Salaries, winnings and bonus figures from players' associations, tour records, agents and news reports. Endorsement estimates from Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, other sports-marketing executives and analysts, and agents. Salaries based on current or most recently completed seasons (exception: 2010 for NFL). For winnings-based sports (golf, auto racing, tennis), 2009 calendar year amounts used. Boxing purses are from July '09 to June 2010.

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