CHICAGO, March 18 -- Former National Basketball Association great Michael Jordan released a statement Saturday announcing he has come out of retirement and will return to play for the Chicago Bulls. Jordan made it official and ended days of intense speculation and media hype in a brief statement that read, simply, 'I'm back.' Jordan, who retired 17 months ago to pursue a short-lived career in professional baseball, will play in Sunday's nationally televised game against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, according to a statement from the Bulls. Sources close to the Bulls indicated Saturday night that Jordan will not start and will wear uniform number 45, not his old number 23 that had been retired by the Bulls in a ceremony earlier this season. Jordan practiced with the Bulls Saturday morning but sped away without comment from their suburban Chicago training facility and the scores offans who had gathered. Bulls coach Phil Jackson said Jordan appeared relaxed and happy when he told the coach that his return was a 'done deal,' before the morning's practice. 'I think after having him on the floor tomorrow I'll be able to describe it,' Jackson said after being asked what it would feel like to have Jordan back. 'Once we see him out there in that red uniform playing for the Chicago Bulls, that will be the emotional moment we've all waited for. Jackson said Jordan wanted to come back Friday to play in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks in Chicago but his return was delayed because he didn't have clearance from the NBA.
'I hoped for this,' Jackson said. 'Now it seems it will be a reality, and we couldn't be more overjoyed. I didn't think it would happen. 'We knew and we know expectations will be high. We hope they are not too high. Chicago is 34-31 and ranks sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, three games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. There is little Jordan, 32, hasn't accomplished on the basketball floor and at his retirement news conference, in fact, said he felt he had nothing more to prove. He retired from the game in October 1993, after leading the Bulls to three straight NBA championships. He was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 1988, 1991 and 1992 and led the league in scoring seven straight seasons. He won a national championship while at North Carolina and was on two Olympic gold medal-winning teams. Jordan's basketball success and engaging personality made him a media darling with nearly global recognition. He endorsed products as varied as hot dogs, underwear and Chevrolet trucks and reportedly pulled in close to $30 million annually off the court. Jordan has practiced with the Bulls four times in the last two weeks and Jackson said he appears to be in good physical condition. The speculation about his return began when he left the Florida training camp of the Chicago White Sox in February and later announced he was giving up his pursuit of a professional baseball career. Jordan played for the Birmingham (Ala.) Barons of the Class AA Southern League in 1994, batting .202 with three home runs, 51 RBI and 27 stolen bases.