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Bears honored former players at Bucs game

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It was only fitting that last Sunday when the Bears put up historic numbers, the team honored its own history.

The Bears celebrated Alumni Homecoming Weekend last week, capping it off with a 48-10 rout of the Buccaneers.

The weekend kicked off with a Saturday night reception at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. More than 80 former players and their guests attended to catch up before the Bears took the field on Sunday.

"I always look forward to Alumni Weekend," said former Bears long-snapper Patrick Mannelly. "This past weekend did not disappoint. It is great to see and meet players from other eras, but I love spending time with my old teammates that come back in town."

Mannelly, more than most, knows what it means to be a Bear. The long-snapper played 16 seasons in Chicago and played in more Bears games than any other player.

On Sunday, players and their guests were invited to watch pregame warmups and were recognized on the field at halftime.

Former center Jay Hilgenberg and cornerback Charles Tillman served as honorary team captains before the game.

"It is always great to come back and see old teammates and meet some of the younger alumni," Hilgenberg said. "It is a special weekend that everyone looks forward to. It was a privilege to be an honorary captain this past Sunday and be recognized on the field with my fellow alumni."

The organization prides itself on connecting with its players long after they've played their last down.

Each June the team holds its annual Bears Alumni Golf Outing sponsored by Mercedes-Benz at the Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis., a course co-owned by Hilgenberg.

Alumni are also invited to a Bears Alumni Cookout each season during minicamp practice at Halas Hall. It offers former players another opportunity to catch up and get a sneak peek of the current team.

The Bears will host an Away Game Watch Party for alumni players Nov. 4 when the Bears take on the Bills on the road.

The events all serve to remind former players that once you put on the Bears uniform, you're a Bear for life.

"It is definitely a family feeling in Chicago," Hilgenberg said.

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