Chicago Bears star Gale Sayers has died at age 77 after living with dementia.

"All those who love the game of football mourn the loss of one of the greatest to ever play this game with the passing of Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers," Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. "He was the very essence of a team player -- quiet, unassuming and always ready to compliment a teammate for a key block. Gale was an extraordinary man who overcame a great deal of adversity during his NFL career and life."

Sayers career numbers do not look as impressive as they could have been after his playing days were cut short due to knee injuries.  Although during his 5 seasons Sayers still put up 4,956 yards and 39 touchdowns on the ground.

Many remember Sayers not just for his career, but for his 1969 season in which he was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award and promptly passed on to Brian Piccolo, who was dying of cancer. This would later become the TV movie "Brian's Song."

In a statement from the NFL and commisioner Roger Goodell:

The NFL family lost a true friend today with the passing of Gale Sayers. Gale was one of the finest men in NFL history and one of the game's most exciting players.

Gale was an electrifying and elusive runner who thrilled fans every time he touched the ball. He earned his place as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We will also forever remember Gale for his inspiration and kindness. Gale's quiet unassuming demeanor belied his determination, competitiveness and compassion.

We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Ardie, and their family. Our thoughts are with his teammates, the Bears organization, the many fans who remember him as a football player and the many more people who were touched by Gale's spirit and generosity.


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