Former Bears Pro Bowler Ron Smith dies

June 3, 2013 at 3:43 PM

CHICAGO, June 3 (UPI) -- Ron Smith, the former Pro Bowl kick returner for the Chicago Bears, died after a brief illness, his family said. He was 70.

Smith played 10 NFL seasons for five teams beginning in 1965 as a kick returner and defensive back, the Chicago Tribune said. Prior to that, he was on the heralded 1963 Wisconsin Badgers team that rallied from behind to defeat USC in the Rose Bowl.

After graduating from Wisconsin, Smith came to the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent. Chicago coach George Halas signed the Windy City native for the 1965 season. Smith left after a single year but returned to Chicago from 1970-72. In his last season with the Bears Smith, whose nickname was "The Gingerbread Man," was named to the Pro Bowl for his kick returning abilities.

He also played for the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.

He recorded 13 interceptions in 10 seasons as a cornerback and strong safety. For his career, Smith averaged more than 25 yards per kick return.

Smith died in a Denver-area hospice after a brief battle with lung cancer, his family said. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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