P. Diddy Is Marathon Man

Move over, Bill Gates.

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs (search) is in the running - literally - to raise millions of dollars for city kids.

Combs announced Tuesday his entry into the 2003 New York City Marathon to raise funds for the city's public schools, as well as a foundation for children with AIDS and his own organizations that mentor kids.

Financial sponsors for Combs include Nike, McDonald's, Foot Locker, MTV, Pinnacle Vitamins and Yucaipa book publishing, sources close to the hip-hop mogul and clothing designer said.

The marathon man's campaign is guaranteed to raise a total of $1 million - but will likely raise much more than that, sources said.

Combs' interest comes after billionaire Microsoft executive Bill Gates agreed to donate more than $50 million to build new small high schools, and bizman philanthropist Eli Broad has kicked in $9 million to help Mayor Bloomberg with restructuring of the Department of Education and staff recruitment.

Just last week, AOL also committed $1 million to the schools in a venture that included the Dave Matthews Band's (search) free concert in Central Park.

Combs recently met with top aides to Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

"If the money is going for the cause of education, it's good enough for us. It's going to help kids," said one source close to the chancellor.

It's not the first time Combs and the hip-hop community - accused by critics of marketing violence to kids - have stepped into the educational fray.

Last year, Combs and Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Action Network helped organized a mass rally outside City Hall to protest Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts to education. Thousands of kids flocked to the event.

Meanwhile, education advocate Caroline Kennedy is encouraging alumni of public high schools to contribute to the city school system.

Famous alumni of Brooklyn's Lafayette HS - including Mets owner Fred Wilpon, pitcher John Franco and CNN talk-show host Larry King - are helping to raise $500,000 to build a new athletic complex there.