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Atkinson quits over racist comment

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LONDON, England -- Former Manchester United manager Ron Atkinson has quit as a football pundit with British terrestrial broadcaster ITV after making a racist off-air comment.

The remark followed Tuesday's Champions League match in Monaco and reportedly concerned the form of Chelsea's French defender Marcel Desailly.

An ITV spokesman said Atkinson is "devastated and very sorry" for any offense caused. "He immediately offered his resignation which we have accepted."

Atkinson's comment came during a post-match conversation with match commentator Clive Tyldesley.

An ITV spokesman stressed: "We do not in any way condone the comments in question, which were not broadcast as part of ITV's coverage but were made in an off-air conversation after the game.

"It was a regrettable lapse by a respected and experienced broadcaster who has been part of the ITV sports team for many years."

It is not the first time he has landed in hot water for an unguarded comment - last season he made a derogatory remark about AS Roma's Italian superstar Francesco Totti which was broadcast by European television.

The 65-year-old, who also managed Premiership side Aston Villa, apologised Wednesday for his remarks.

"I made a stupid mistake which I regret it left me no option but to resign. At the moment I can't believe I did it. It was just a moment of stupidity.

"I was very frustrated at the end of the game because I thought Chelsea could have won," Atkinson added.

"I regret making the comments and I apologise to anyone I may have offended."

The use of such inflammatory language by Atkinson was all the more surprising as during the late 1970s, he was at the forefront of giving opportunities to black players when manager of West Bromwich Albion.

His side regularly featured three black players - the late Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson - and Atkinson said that proved he was not a racist.

"If you look at my track record as a manager, I was one of the first managers in the game to give black players a chance."

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