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Alex Karras dies at 77

The SportsXchange

Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions' lineman who later had a successful acting career in the 1974 comedy "Blazing Saddles" and starred on the sitcom "Webster," died Wednesday at 77.

He passed away at home in Los Angeles surrounded by family members, his lawyer told multiple media outlets. Karras had recently suffered kidney failure, and also suffered from dementia.

He joined a class-action lawsuit in April, along with 3,500 former players, that accuses the league of not protecting them better from head injuries.

Drafted 10th overall in 1958, Karras went on to become a four-time All-Pro defensive tackle in his 12 seasons with the team. He led the Lions' defense past Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day in 1962, handing the Packers their only loss that season.

Karras reached a new audience in the acting world. In the Mel Brooks' comedy, "Blazing Saddles," he famously punched a horse and delivered the line: "Mongo only pawn in game of life."

He later played himself in movie adaption of George Plimpton's behind-the-scenes book about life as a NFL player in Detroit.

Karras became a 1980s staple on television as Emmanuel Lewis' adoptive father, George Papadapolis, in the sitcom "Webster."

"Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex," Lions president Tom Lewand said.
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