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Jim Brown, the transcendent athlete-actor-activist who ran roughshod over the NFL and its record books in the 1950s and 1960s and won multiple MVP awards before retiring abruptly at age 30 to focus on the civil rights movement and a career in Hollywood, has died, his former team and his widow said Friday. He was 87.
“It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my husband, Jim Brown,” Monique Brown wrote on Instagram. “He passed peacefully last night at our LA home. To the world he was an activist, actor, and football star. To our family, he was a loving and wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken…”
The sole team Brown played for, the Cleveland Browns, tweeted, “Jim Brown Forever. “Legend. Leader. Activist. Visionary.
“It’s impossible to describe the profound love and gratitude we feel for having the opportunity to be a small piece of Jim’s incredible life and legacy. We mourn his passing, but celebrate the indelible light he brought to the world. Our hearts are with Jim’s family, loved ones, and all those he impacted along the way.”
Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
“Yardage isn’t the big thing. Having your team win the championship is … That’s what I work for, winning the championship, and this requires a certain standard of performance,” Brown said, according to the Hall of Fame webpage honoring his career.
Before leaving the game, Brown made his film debut in 1964 in the Western, “Rio Conchos.”
He surprised sports fans two years later when, at the height of his career, the reigning NFL MVP announced his retirement from football while he was filming the World War II film, “The Dirty Dozen.” He appeared in more than 50 film and television projects in the years that followed, most recently “Draft Day” in 2014.
Brown also made his mark as a civil rights activist, working with inner-city gang members and prison inmates.