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Bears legend Atkins passes away at 85

The Bears lost one of the greatest players in franchise history Wednesday when Hall of Fame defensive end Doug Atkins passed away in Knoxville, Tenn. He was 85.

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Hall of Fame DE Doug Atkins

A mammoth 6-foot-8 pass rusher, Atkins played 12 of 17 NFL seasons with the Bears from 1955-66. During his time in Chicago, he was voted to eight Pro Bowls, was selected first-team All-Pro four times and helped the Bears win the 1963 NFL championship.

The only Bears players who have been voted to more Pro Bowls than Atkins are fellow Hall of Famers Mike Singletary (10) and Walter Payton (9).

Atkins was selected to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1960s and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

"Doug Atkins is an all-time great who will be remembered as one of the pillars of the 1963 Championship Bears," team chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement. "He had a freakish combination of size and athletic ability and was as tough as anyone who ever stepped on a football field.

"Doug wasn't afraid to offer his opinion off the field as well and had a unique communication style when it came to interacting with Coach [George] Halas. He embodied the spirit and commitment of what it means to be a Bear.

"Our prayers are with Doug's wife, Sylvia, and their family."

Atkins attended the University of Tennessee, where he helped lead the Volunteers to the national championship in 1951. He was selected by the Browns in the first round of the 1953 draft and spent his first two NFL seasons in Cleveland before being traded to the Bears in 1955.

Atkins was a dominant and feared defender whose size and tenacity often made it appear that he was a man among boys.

"Trying to throw over him was like trying to throw over a mountain," Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr once said.

Atkins played the final three years of his NFL career with the Saints from 1966-68. His coach in New Orleans, Hall of Famer Tom Fears, once said: "When they made Doug, they threw away the mold. There'll never be another like him in professional football."

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