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Patriots-used ball from AFC title game put on auction block

Would you like to own one of the Deflategate balls? Well, now's your chance. A New England Patriots-used ball from the AFC Championship Game is hitting the auction block Thursday.

The ball, handed to fan Laura Nichols in the third quarter by Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell, has been consigned to online auction house Lelands.com for the company's summer auction that will close July 17.

Nichols and her husband Matt said they were sitting in the first row of the end zone at Gillette Stadium for the game played on Jan. 18.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount ran it into the end zone from 13 yards out to put the team up 37-7 on the Indianapolis Colts.

"LaFell picked up the ball, I pointed at him, he pointed at me and he handed me the ball," Nichols said. "It was all so surreal."

Originally, the couple thought the ball was a backup ball brought in for the second half after officials found the Patriots' balls in the first half to be underinflated, as had been originally reported by the media. But the NFL-commissioned report by Ted Wells confirmed that the 12 balls used in the first half were simply re-inflated for the second half.

"Once we found that out, we knew we had a Deflategate ball," Matt Nichols said.

While the Patriots fans said they had mixed feelings about putting the ball up for auction, they would rather have the money than having it sit on some shelf in their house. The two, who spent their second date at a Patriots game, got married just last year.

The lowest bid allowed for the ball is $25,000, as set by the auction company.

"This is a 'wow' type of collectible," said Joshua Evans, founder and chairman of Lelands.com. "This is one of the best conversation pieces that has ever been sold."

Evans said people in possession of these types of items usually wait, believing that they will become more valuable with time. But, at least in this case, he believes that the quick time to market will make the bidding more competitive.

"I could see this ball getting six figures," said Evans, whose company first sold the "Bill Buckner ball" from the 1986 World Series to Charlie Sheen for $93,000 in 1992.

Evans said it's possible that this is the only one of the Deflategate balls that made its way into the public domain.

Last month, the league suspended Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season and fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two draft picks. Brady's suspension was based on the belief that he was aware of the attempt to inflate the balls to lower than accepted standards, while the Patriots were docked for violating the playing rules and not fully cooperating with the investigation.

Brady will appeal his suspension before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell next week. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported this week that the NFL Players Association recently sent a letter to the league claiming that the Wells report is "dubious, contradictory and mischaracterized circumstantial evidence."