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Bears' Hester sets NFL record for TD returns

ST. LOUIS (Dec. 11, 2006) -- Chicago rookie Devin Hester ran back two kickoffs for scores for his fifth and sixth return touchdowns of the season, an NFL record.

In the second quarter, Hester took the ball on the 6, headed up the middle, then sharply cut to his left and ran untouched down the sideline for the score, giving the Bears a 7-6 lead over the St. Louis Rams.

It was his first kickoff return for a score this season, to go with three punt returns for TDs and a 108-yard run following a missed field goal against the New York Giants on Nov. 12 that tied the longest play in league history.

"The coaches were telling me they kind of overpursue on the wedge," Hester said, "and to look for the cutback. They overpursued to the right and I cut it back."

With 7:22 remaining in the game, he was at it again, this time up the middle untouched for 96 yards. He high-stepped from the Rams 20 and was looking back for any pursuers; there were none.

"We were expecting the onside kick and they ended up kicking it deep," he explained. "We had a return set up for that. My teammates set up the blocking like they always do."

He is the first Bears player to run two kickoffs for scores in a game.

Hester leads the league in punt returns with a 14.2-yard average, but had run back only six kickoffs before this game.

"I guess you can call him 'The Man,' " linebacker Lance Briggs said. "Give him the status and all that goes with that. Anything that goes with that, he's that. He's an impact player in this league. He's something special."

Coincidentally, on the play before his first touchdown, Hester, playing cornerback, was beaten in the end zone for a 1-yard TD by Torry Holt.

Hester became the sixth player in league history to run back two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. Nine players had shared the previous NFL record of four returned kicks for touchdowns in a single season.

Ken Houston had five returns for touchdowns on defense (four interceptions, one fumble) for the 1971 Houston Oilers.

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