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Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) breaks free for a first down as Vanderbilt defensive back Taurean Ferguson (3) defends in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in Athens, Ga.

Updated Friday at 2:45 p.m. to reflect new information.

Todd Gurley did not accompany the team on its flight to Missouri today, where No. 13 ranked UGA will face the No. 23 ranked Missouri Tigers.

Gurley has been cited as a Heisman front-runner, and was a dominant presence in UGA's offense.

Original story follows:

After dazzling the college football world the past several Saturdays, Georgia junior tailback Todd Gurley made news of the unwelcome kind Thursday afternoon.

Gurley was suspended indefinitely by the university's athletic association due to an ongoing investigation into an alleged violation of NCAA rules. The 6-foot-1, 232-pounder from Tarboro, N.C., leads the Southeastern Conference with 773 rushing yards, 154.6 yards per game and 8.2 yards per carry.

"I'm obviously very disappointed," Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a two-paragraph release from the university. "The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri."

The No. 13 Bulldogs visit Missouri's No. 23 Tigers on Saturday. Georgia is 4-1 overall and 2-1 in SEC play, while Missouri is 4-1 and the lone East Division team undefeated in league action at 1-0.

Sports Illustrated reported Thursday night that a person told Georgia's compliance office that he paid Gurley $400 to sign 80 memorabilia items this past spring in Athens. According to the NCAA's policy on extra benefits, any payment greater than $100 up to $400 results in a one-game suspension, and anything greater than $400 up to $700 results in a two-game suspension.

TMZ Sports reported that Gurley was paid nearly $2,000 for two separate autograph appearances. If that is proven accurate, he could be facing a four-game suspension.

According to ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell, who cited a source, Gurley was "looking for $8 to $25 a signature but would accept less if he signed more pieces."

Gurley is not the first heralded Georgia football player under Richt to be involved in an NCAA investigation. In 2010, receiver A.J. Green admitted to selling his 2009 Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 to a former North Carolina player whom NCAA officials viewed as an agent.

Green was suspended four games that season, when the Bulldogs started 1-4 and wound up 6-7, but the incident did not affect his standing in the NFL. After forgoing his final season of eligibility, Green was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Gurley is expected to play just three seasons for the Bulldogs and recently was tabbed by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper as the No. 9 overall prospect for the 2015 draft.

The immediate concern for the Bulldogs is Saturday's showdown. Georgia began this season with five scholarship tailbacks -- Gurley, junior Keith Marshall, sophomore Brendan Douglas and the touted freshman tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

Marshall has a sprained ankle and knee and will not be back until next week's game at Arkansas at the earliest, while Michel is expected to miss this entire month with a shoulder injury.

That would leave just Chubb, who was competing this time last year for Cedartown High, and Douglas for Saturday. Chubb has rushed 31 times for 224 yards and two touchdowns, including a 47-yarder in the opening win over Clemson, while Douglas collected his eight carries and 47 yards in the 66-0 thrashing of Troy.

Gurley had vaulted to the top of the Heisman Trophy race after his past two games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, when he rushed 53 times for 371 yards and four scores. He has the longest rush (51 yards), pass (50) and kickoff return (100) for the Bulldogs this season.

With Monday's suspension of Florida freshman quarterback Treon Harris due to a sexual assault accusation, the biggest factors in Tennessee's losses to the rival Bulldogs and Gators have been sidelined.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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