If you go to File -> Get External Data -> Import, you do not have Microsoft Excel in the Files of Type pulldown list?
There is a box below that pulldown field which on my screen says:
"Not all file types are installed by default. To add other file types, run the Setup Program, click Add/Remove, Data Access, Change Option. Additional file types are also available in the Office 97 ValuPack."
Do you have the ValuPack? I think it was in my Developer Edition Tools