- Travis Haney, ESPN Staff Writer
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NCAA investigators spent a large chunk of Sunday with Johnny Manziel, questioning the Texas A&M quarterback about allegations from memorabilia dealers that he accepted payments for autographs, a source familiar with the investigation told ESPN.com on Monday night.
The governing body's officials met with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, for nearly six hours on the College Station, Texas, campus, the source said.
Manziel denied in the meetings that he ever took money for signing autographs, CBSSports.com reported, citing sources close to the player.
It was unclear whether the NCAA was satisfied with the initial meeting with Manziel or if it would require additional time with the redshirt sophomore. Texas A&M's season begins Saturday, at home against Rice. Manziel has taken all of his practice reps with the first team, and barring a decision by the NCAA, the school has until kickoff to make any decision on whether he starts.
Attorney Jim Darnell, hired by Manziel's family, did not return calls to ESPN on Monday night seeking comment.
Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said Monday night that he'd instructed everyone in the program not to talk about Manziel. Reporters asked anyway on Tuesday, and coach Kevin Sumlin responded by saying: "We're not discussing that."
Earlier this month, ESPN reported that the NCAA was looking into whether Manziel was paid for signing autographs at several locations, including in South Florida around the BCS title game.
Also, ESPN reported that a set of autograph dealers claimed Manziel accepted payments to sign more than 4,000 items, including footballs and photographs, at an event in Connecticut in late January.
In his first season, Manziel accounted for 5,116 total yards and 47 touchdowns, becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman. Manziel led the Aggies, in their first year in the SEC, to an 11-2 record that included an upset of eventual national champion Alabama and a Cotton Bowl victory against former Big 12 rival Oklahoma.
When ESPN.com visited Texas A&M's preseason camp from Aug. 17-19, sources close to the program indicated that the school's administration had discussed whether to sit Manziel in the face of the ongoing investigation. In the days after that visit, however, the university's higher-ups strongly defended and backed the Aggies' star player.
Chancellor John Sharp, in an interview last week with a local TV station, called into question the original reporting by ESPN and maintained Manziel's innocence. An ESPN spokesman issued a statement Thursday, saying: "We stand by our reporting."
A school source told ESPN.com on Saturday night that things "seemed to be OK" regarding Manziel's playing status and that it was "business as usual, or as close as possible" going into the team's first game week.
On Monday, Manziel was listed as the starter on Texas A&M's game notes and Hyman, in a statement, put an informal gag order on those close to the program regarding Manziel.
"The focus of our coaches and student-athletes is solely on preparing for Rice this Saturday," Hyman said in the statement, "and in the best interests of Texas A&M and the 100-plus student-athletes on the team, I have instructed Coach Sumlin, his staff and our student-athletes to refrain from commenting on or answering questions regarding the status of our starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel."
Information from ESPN's Brett McMurphy and The Associated Press was used in this report.