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Robert Kraft, Vladimir Putin differ on Super Bowl ring

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has made the rounds this week, dishing on Tim Tebow's "spirituality" and telling tales about his encounters with powerful men of the east.

You might recall that Kraft in 2005 joined a cadre of businessmen to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. The Patriots owner walked into that meeting with a jewel-laced Super Bowl XXXIX ring on his finger but left empty-handed.

"I showed the president my most recent Super Bowl ring," Kraft said at the time, per The Boston Globe. Putin "was clearly taken with its uniqueness ... at that point, I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin."

Not so fast. Kraft now admits Putin nabbed the ring -- worth upwards of $25,000 -- without his consent.

"I took out the ring and showed it to (Putin)," Kraft said this week, per the New York Post. "And he put it on and he goes, 'I can kill someone with this ring,' I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out."

Kraft kept his wits about him and complied with a call from the White House, in which a George W. Bush handler told him: " 'It would really be in the best interest of U.S.-Soviet relations if you meant to give the ring as a present.' "

(KGB and the Soviets? Sounds like something out of 1982, not 2005.)

I had an opportunity to chat with Kraft in the hours before Super Bowl XLVI and asked him which of his Super Bowl victories meant the most. "That's like asking about different children," he said. "Every child is special."

Especially a child kidnapped by the Russians.

UPDATE: Putin's spokesman rebuts Kraft's claim, telling CNN that Putin did not steal the ring and instead was given it as a gift. He even called Kraft's comments "weird." "I was standing 20 centimeters away from him and Mr. Putin and saw and heard how Mr. Kraft gave this ring as a gift," the spokesman said Sunday.

The Patriots did their best to throw water on any potential controversy when reached for comment by and NFL Network on Sunday.

"It's a humorous, anecdotal story that Robert re-tells for laughs," Patriots spokesperson Stacey James said. "He loves that his ring is at the Kremlin and, as he stated back in 2005, he continues to have great respect for Russia and the leadership of President Putin. In particular, he credits President Putin for modernizing the Russian economy. An added benefit from the attention this story gathered eight years ago was the creation of some Patriots fan clubs in Russia."

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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