Undated (AP) _ Hundreds of people in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi reported seeing a bright light streak across the sky Monday evening, and authorities near Chattanooga began a ground search for what they thought was a meteorite.

''It could have been a satellite burning up in the atmosphere or a meteor. There's no way to know,'' said Staff Sgt. James Robinson of the Alabama Air National Guard in Birmingham.

The light swept in a westerly direction in the southwestern sky at about 5:45 p.m. EST, said Curley Wainwright, traffic control supervisor at McGee Tyson Airport in Knoxville.

''It was one of the most spectacular ones we've seen,'' Wainwright said. ''We saw it behind some high cirrus clouds and it had quite a red glow and a tail behind it. It didn't hit the ground that we could see.''

But in southeastern Tennessee, Polk County sheriff's deputies began searching for a meteorite after receiving reports that it landed near Ducktown, said dispatcher Linda Richards.

''Quite a few people on the ground and in the air told us they saw it,'' said a Federal Aviation Administration official in Crossville, Tenn., who refused to be identified. ''We talked to airports in Chattanooga, Birmingham and Huntsville that reported seeing it.''

''It was just a meteor and it burned out probably hundreds of miles above the Earth,'' he said.

An air traffic controller in Birmingham, Ala., said those in the tower felt a tremor when the light passed over.

''It was directly over this county from what we understand,'' said David Raney, a radio dispatcher with the Cullman County sheriff's department in northern Alabama, which received about 80 calls about the light. ''People have been reporting seeing it and hearing a sonic boom.''

Mississippi Highway Patrol officials said the light was also seen in eastern Mississippi.

''I'll be honest with you. I don't know what it was,'' said dispatcher Mark Bilbro. ''The thing looked like it was right over Meridian.''

Col. Chuck Wood, a spokesman for NORAD, said it wasn't one of the hundreds of pieces of manmade equipment in space that the North American Aerospace Defense Command keeps track of.

He said he didn't know what it was or might be.