It's a saga Madison Avenue would love. The former champion returns to his sport after a long layoff. A record number of fans plunk down $40 apiece to watch his first outing on TV. And he vanquishes his opponent in near-record time.

But this is Mike Tyson, a felon with a rape conviction. To corporate sponsors, he's poison. Trim, fit, and a terror in the ring, Tyson bashed Peter McNeeley on Aug. 19. But don't expect a repeat of the days when he drew $2 million a year to pitch wares from the likes of Pepsi-Cola.

Tyson could be worth $8 million a year in endorsements were it not for his baggage. And some marketers say there may be companies that want to woo Iron Mike's fans. "But they'd have to be willing to write off the mainstream," says Lesa Ukman, editor of IEG Sponsorship Report. So far, nobody's ready to take that punch.

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