He's only 5-9, went to junior college, was a third-round draft pick and had trouble controlling his temper. Steve Smith has overcome it all. And yesterday, he cashed in.

Smith agreed to a 3-year contract extension with the Carolina Panthers that will keep him with the team through the 2012 season. His agent, Derrick Fox, said he wasn't authorized to release exact figures, but said the Los Angeles native will be among the NFL's five highest-paid receivers.

Smith, 28, had 3 years left on a 6-year, $27 million contract. He was scheduled to make $3.1 million, $3.6 million and $4.2 million over the next three seasons, but now will make significantly more.

"I would like to retire here and be the first or second Panther in the Hall of Fame," Smith said.

Lightly recruited, Smith went to junior college before transferring to Utah. He was Carolina's third-round pick in 2001 and was used as a kickoff and punt returner as a rookie. A year later, he was charged with assault and suspended one game for punching teammate Anthony Bright during a receivers film session.


* Gilbert Gardner, a starting linebacker for most of last season, was released by the Indianapolis Colts, who also cut linebackers Mike Labinjo (a former Eagle) and Brandon Hoyte and defensive back Trevis Coley, and signed tight end Mike Seidman.

* An autopsy on Broncos running back Damien Nash, 24, found no drugs or unnatural substances in his system. An exact cause of death could not be determined for Nash, who collapsed and died Feb. 24 after a charity basketball game he hosted in St. Louis.

* Receiver Plaxico Burress attended the Giants' voluntary conditioning program, so that he could work out with quarterback Eli Manning. *