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Eagles retire White's No. 92 jersey

Randall Cunningham remembered the "red fire" he saw in Reggie White's eyes before every game. Buddy Ryan called White one of the best players -- and friends -- anyone could have.

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 5, 2005) -- Randall Cunningham remembered the "red fire" he saw in Reggie White's eyes before every game.

Buddy Ryan called White one of the best players -- and friends -- anyone could have. And Keith Jackson always remained awed by White's dedication to God.

"But let's not forget, he could play some football," Jackson said.

White played defensive end about as well as anyone in NFL history, and on Monday night he earned one final, fitting tribute from the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles retired White's No. 92 before their game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field, the seventh player in franchise history to earn the honor.

White's daughter, Jecolia, was set to sing the national anthem and a special halftime ceremony for the fans was planned. The number retirement seemed especially fitting against the Seahawks since coach Mike Holmgren won a Super Bowl with White in Green Bay.

White, who suffered from sleep apnea and sarcoidosis, died last year in Cornelius, N.C., at age 43.

"He was hungry and thirsty for truth in his life," said Cunningham, the former Eagles QB. "That was the point God said, 'Come on up here with me, son."'

White played 15 seasons with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. He retired after the 2000 season as the NFL's career sacks leader with 198, a mark that was subsequently passed by Bruce Smith.

White is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The class of 2006 will be determined at the selection committee's annual meeting Feb. 4 in Detroit.

Jackson said there was more to White than the way he put fear into quarterbacks, and that's what those who were close to him would remember most.

"It's not his accolades on the football field, but the type of person he was. The type of man he was," Jackson said.

A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and ordained minister who was known as the "Minister of Defense," White was elected to the Pro Bowl a record 13 straight times from 1986-98.

"He was the master of being prepared in the season and in the offseason," Cunningham said.

Cunningham, Jackson, Clyde Simmons and Keith Byars were among nearly two dozen former Eagles who returned for the unveiling of White's No. 92 next to the No. 99 of former teammate Jerome Brown, who died in an auto accident while still active.

White's widow, Sara, was touched at how so many of his friends came to remember him.

"His spirit will be with us forever and ever and ever," she said.

After an All-American senior season at Tennessee, White began his pro career with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL in 1984. He joined the Philadelphia Eagles, who held his NFL rights, after the USFL folded in 1985. For eight years he was as an integral piece in Philadelphia's "Gang Green Defense."

White combined size, speed and strength like no defensive lineman before him, recording a league-high 21 sacks in only 12 games in the strike-shortened 1987 season. He remains the Eagles career leader in sacks with 124 in 121 games and his seven consecutive Pro Bowl selections are a team record.

"He's probably the best defensive lineman that ever played," said Ryan, who coached the Eagles from 1986-1990.

White played a key role in free agency -- he was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the current system.

White signed as a free agent with Green Bay in 1993 for $17 million over four years. His signing, along with a trade for Brett Favre, helped make the Packers champions again. He was the first major black player to sign with the Packers as a free agent.

He also had his No. 92 retired by the Packers.

White became an ordained Baptist minister at 17, earning him the nickname "The Minister of Defense." He was fond of saying God told him to go to Green Bay in 1993 to sack both sin and quarterbacks, and worked tirelessly in the offseason with inner-city youths.

"He was a loyal friend," Ryan said. "He and I were friends as well as coach and player. You just don't think of that happening.

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