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Thursday, 12 September, 2002, 02:46 GMT 03:46 UK
NFL legend Unitas dies
Unitas had major heart surgery in 1993.
Unitas threw touchdown passes in 47 straight games
Johnny Unitas, widely regarded as the NFL's best-ever quarterback, has died of a heart attack at the age of 69.

The "Golden Arm" broke nearly every NFL passing record and won three championships with the Baltimore Colts in an 18-year career.

He was the first to throw for 40,000 yards in his career and now ranks seventh, surpassed by a group of quarterbacks who played in an era when the rules made passing easier.

Unitas retired after the 1973 season holding 22 NFL records, including:

  • Most passes attempted and completed
  • Most yards gained passing
  • Most touchdown passes
  • Most seasons leading the league in TD passes.

    Unitas completed 2,830 of 5,186 passes for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns.

    He completed at least one touchdown pass in 47 straight games, a record that no one has come close to matching since it was set from 1956-60.

    Unitas was Most Valuable Player three times and played in 10 Pro Bowls.

    Greatest

    He led Baltimore to the NFL championship in 1958 and 1959 and the Super Bowl in 1970. He was inducted into the football Hall of Fame in 1979.

    On the NFL's 50th anniversary in 1969, Unitas was voted the greatest quarterback of all time.

    He also was selected at quarterback for the NFL's All-Time team in 2000 by the 36 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters.

    Unitas was one of the few quarterbacks who called his own plays, an ability traced to his knack for reading an opponent's defence and spotting a weakness, then calling a play to take advantage.

    Unitas' best moment probably came in the 1958 championship game against the New York Giants, called "the greatest football game ever played" for years afterwards.

    With 90 seconds left, he completed four passes, taking the Colts to the 20-yard line to tie the game on a field goal. He then engineered an 80-yard drive for the winning TD.

    Outstanding

    The following year, Baltimore beat the Giants 31-16 in the championship game.

    Unitas ran for one touchdown, and passed for two others, completing 18 of 29 passes, good for 264 yards.

    For the season he set an NFL record by throwing 32 touchdown passes, and was named the league's outstanding player.

    His Super Bowl victory came in 1971, a 16-13 victory over Dallas in which he played sparingly.

    He also played in the 1969 Super Bowl, a shocking 16-7 loss to Joe Namath and the New York Jets.

    He underwent emergency triple-bypass surgery in March 1993 after a coronary.

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     ON THIS STORY
    BBC Sport's Chris Dennis
    "An incredible career"
    BBC Sport Online rounds up the latest news from the NFL.

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