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Johnny Sample, Super Bowl star, dead at 67

PHILADELPHIA (April 26, 2005) -- Johnny Sample, a defensive back who was on the winning side in two of the NFL's landmark games, died. He was 67.

His death was confirmed by Jeff Moran, a spokesman for the medical examiner's office. Details were not immediately available.

A young woman who answered the phone at Sample's home in Philadelphia said the family would have no comment for a few days.

Sample had an interception for the New York Jets in their 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl in 1969. That game, for which the Jets' Joe Namath "guaranteed" victory, established the old AFL on a par with the NFL after the two leagues had merged.

Earlier, Sample played for the Colts in the 1958 NFL championship game against the New York Giants that is still often described as "The Greatest Game Ever Played." The Colts won 23-17, the first game to go to overtime.

"He will always have a special place in Jets' history as a member of the Super Bowl championship team," Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "The Jets and the NFL community have lost a friend in Johnny Sample."

In all, Sample played 11 seasons for the Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins and the Jets. The 1958 title game was as a rookie and the 1969 game was his last.

"His participation in two of the most significant games in NFL history, the 1958 championship game and Super Bowl III, symbolized the champion John was," Colts owner Jimmy Irsay said.

Known as a fierce hitter from his cornerback position, he had 41 interceptions during his career, returning four for touchdowns, and also returned one punt and one kickoff for a TD. In his final year with the Jets, he had seven interceptions.

Born in Philadelphia, he attended Overbrook High School at the same time as Wilt Chamberlain and played in college at Maryland-Eastern Shore.

WBC middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins said he knew Sample for 18 years.

"He was a standup, speak-his-mind kind of guy," Hopkins told the AP in a phone interview. "It's like getting hit with a right hand that you can't shake off. He is my best older, elder friend."

AP Sports Writer Ben Walker in New York contributed to this report.

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