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Reggie Bush to honor slain football star Joe McKnight with custom NFL cleats

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Before he was shot to death at age 28 in an apparent road rage incident this week, before he played for two NFL teams and before he starred on the college field at USC, Joe McKnight was touted as "the next Reggie Bush." 

Now, in a bittersweet coda, Bush will honor McKnight's memory by wearing custom cleats on the NFL gridiron.

McKnight was shot and killed after an argument at a traffic intersection near New Orleans on Thursday. The man suspected of killing him was released without charges Friday, prompting incredulousness and outrage far and wide — but more on that in just a bit. 

McKnight's name strikes a chord with sports fans who remember the running back as a USC-bound high school football phenom hyped as "the next Reggie Bush." That label referenced the Trojans star who won the Heisman Trophy two years before McKnight entered USC in 2007. 

McKnight's USC career never quite matched the hype. but he was picked in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He played for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs before drifting out of the league in 2014. Despite his brief NFL career, many fans have fond memories of McKnight's electrifying athleticism, and teammates have recalled him as a kind soul. The sports world reacted with shock and horror after news of his murder broke Thursday. 

Bush posted a sad tweet after McKnight was killed. Then, in a subsequent  post Saturday, Bush shared the cleats he'll wear Sunday to honor McKnight's memory. 

RIP my brother Joe McKnight this one hurts bad

— Reggie Bush (@ReggieBush) December 1, 2016

Cleats for tomorrow's game 🔥🔥🔥#RIPJoeMcKnight #FightOn pic.twitter.com/vP5aK2OJWB

— Reggie Bush (@ReggieBush) December 3, 2016

For this week only, the NFL is allowing players to wear custom cleats without being fined. Bush currently plays for the Buffalo Bills, who face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. 

The man who has reportedly admitted to killing McKnight — 54-year-old Ronald Gasser — has a history of road rage

McKnight walks off the field following a USC game in 2008.

McKnight walks off the field following a USC game in 2008.

Image: Don Ryan/AP

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said in a news conference Friday that Gasser was released due to state statutes allowing a suspect's release during an active investigation. Louisiana has a "Stand Your Ground" law that says a person is justified in using deadly force if he "reasonably believes [it] is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle." 

McKnight was reportedly unarmed when he was shot. 

Gasser is white and McKnight was black, giving the case a troublingly familiar racial angle. The NAACP registered objection to Gasser's release, which was also widely decried by observers on social media. 

McKnight was working with mental health patients at a local hospital and eyeing an NFL comeback before he was killed, his brother told The New Orleans Advocate. He starred as a prep and graduated from high school in the New Orleans area. 

Now McKnight's likeness takes the NFL field one last time, emblazoned on the cleats of Bush, the man to whom he once drew such lofty comparisons. 

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