LOS ANGELES — Is Michael Phelps planning a comeback?
A report Friday evening from WBBH, an NBC television affiliate in Fort Myers, Fla., said Phelps will return to swimming with an eye toward competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The three-paragraph story on the station's Web site was posted by news anchor Peter Busch, who is the son of Frank Busch, director of the U.S. national swim team.
"The greatest Olympian of all time isn't hanging up his swimsuit, after all," the report said, without citing any sources.
Phelps went on Twitter to downplay the report, but he didn't specifically deny it either.
"Why do I keep getting texts about coming back?" he wrote. "Do (people) really believe everything they hear or read? There are (too) many (people) in the world that think they have a 'story.'"
Busch followed with a tweet that said he felt "very confident with my info. Guess we'll see."
Phelps has said repeatedly his swimming career was over after winning 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall, both totals far more than any other Olympian. He retired at the age of 27 immediately after last summer's London Olympics.
There was no other immediate comment from the Phelps camp. A message was left with one of his longtime agents, Drew Johnson.
Officials at USA Swimming did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Just last weekend, longtime rival Ryan Lochte was clearly skeptical that Phelps would stick with his decision to retire from a sport he dominated for the past decade, especially when so many swimmers are competing well into their 30s.
"I can't really talk about it," Lochte said, breaking into a sly grin during a Grand Prix meet in Charlotte, N.C. "Who knows?"
In an interview last December with The Associated Press, after beating out LeBron James for male athlete of the year, Phelps stressed repeatedly that he had no plans to return to competitive swimming.
He said the London Games, where he captured four gold medals and two silvers, was the perfect way to close his career.
"I wanted to leave that way," he said. "I'm sure I could come back in another four years, but why? I've done everything I wanted to do. There's no point in me coming back. Everybody is like, 'You're going to come back.' And I'm like, 'No, I'm not.' I've done everything I wanted to do in this sport. I don't know a lot of people who can say that."
Since London, Phelps has turned his attention to golf, filming a show with famed instructor Hank Haney for the Golf Channel and signing an endorsement deal with Ping. Last week, he participated in an event prior to the Tour Championship at the TPC Sawgrass in Florida.
He also cheered his hometown Baltimore Ravens on their way to the Super Bowl, attending the title game at New Orleans with a large group of family and friends.