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NBA star Dwight Howard got schooled by cops after removing his child from day care … TMZ has learned.

It all went down on August 26 when Howard — who is in an ongoing custody war with baby mama Royce Reed — went to pick up their 2-year-old son. Reed, we’re told, flipped out and called the cops because she claimed the custody agreement didn’t give Howard the right to pick the child up that day.

Reed showed up at the day care center for a showdown, but Howard had already left with the kid.

The cops called Howard … and the NBA star explained he and his ex made a new agreement … giving him the right to cart his kid away that day. But … after speaking with lawyers from both sides, the cops handed down their verdict — a new custody agreement was discussed but never signed.

The cops ordered Howard to return the child to the day care center, stat. Howard’s nanny took the boy back to school and Reed took him home.

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