ST. LOUIS (AP) — The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out a judge’s order lifting the NFL lockout, handing the league a key victory.

The appellate court issued its decision Friday, even as the league and its locked-out players continue negotiations intended to strike a new collective bargaining agreement and start the 2011 season on time.

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The first preseason game is scheduled for Aug. 7, less than a month away.

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The appellate court ruled on an April 25 decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who put the lockout on hold after players argued they were suffering irreparable harm. The appeals court put that order on hold and its final decision said Nelson ignored federal law in reaching her decision.

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