Even though Kanye West did not appear on Antonio Brown's new album ... the NFL star tells TMZ Sports the rapper still had a HUGE role in its production -- and he's super grateful for it.
AB says Ye oversaw a lot of the behind-the-scenes things that go into making his new "Paradigm" project ... explaining to us out in L.A. this week that "he oversaw the whole infrastructure."
"He paid for a lot of studio time," Brown said. "Ye had a lot to do with a lot of this production."
Brown went on to personally thank Ye and Donda Sports and "everybody that's been a part of this project."
As for a collab between the two, who became best of friends following AB's messy breakup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brown said it still might be coming down the road even though a track featuring the rappers didn't make it to this album.
"We still got a lot of things in the works," Brown said.
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Brown -- who's album officially dropped on Wednesday -- tells us that while he's knee-deep in music at the moment ... a football future is still on his mind.
In fact, check out the clip, AB appears to think he's got plenty of gas left in his NFL tank.