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Gastineau retires from football

NEW YORK -- Actress Brigitte Nielsen says she has cancer and her boyfriend, New York Jets star Mark Gastineau, is quitting football because of it.

Nielsen, the strikingly tall blonde Dane who is the ex-wife of Sylvester Stallone, told The New York Times: 'I have cancer of the uterus. I'm trying to handle this in a positive way. We're going to decide how we'll deal with this.'

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Earlier, Gastineau, once a Pro Bowl performer and always a flamboyant defensive end for the Jets, announced his retirement. The Times, quoting an unidentified friend of Gastineau's, said the retirement is based on Nielsen's health.

Nielsen, who appeared in 'Rocky 4' with her ex-husband, 'Red Sonja' and 'Beverly Hills Cop 2,' and Gastineau flew to the player's Arizona home Thursday night. At the airport, Gastineau refused to discuss Nielsen's health.

Nielsen said: 'I'm in love with him, whatever he does I'll support him, whether 99 (his uniform number) or Mark at home.'

Gastineau and Nielsen were expecting a child at one point this year but she suffered a miscarriage. They also broke up but later reconciled.

Nielsen was in the stands Monday night, watching Gastineau's Jets lose to the Buffalo Bills, when she was served with a subpoena by attorneys for his estranged wife, Lisa.

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In a halftime interview, Gastineau said: 'I know it's heavy stuff to say in front of America but she (Nielsen) is what I want. She is all that matters to me. I wouldn't be playing this year if it wasn't for her. Football doesn't even come close. If she told me to give it up tomorrow, that's exactly what I'd do.'

Coach Joe Walton said Gastineau mentioned Tuesday night he was considering retirement. Walton told him to think it over for a day or two. Gastineau did not practice Wednesday for what the club described as an 'illness in the family.' He spoke to Walton before practice Thursday and told the coach he did not want to play.

'Mark Gastineau has decided for his personal reasons that he doesn't want to play football at this time,' club president Steve Gutman said in a statement.

The Jets have called a news conference for noon EDT Friday to discuss the situation.

Gastineau, 31, has struggled through two disappointing seasons. He saved his roster spot this year and was playing near his peak with an AFC-leading seven sacks. This came just one season after he angered his teammates by crossing a picket line during the players' strike.

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Since he brought his controversial Sack Dance to the NFL, Gastineau's career has resembled a soap opera of sorts. Most recently, his off-and-on relationship with Nielsen has placed Gastineau on the gossip pages as often as the sports pages.

Early in his career, Gastineau was the NFL's most feared pass rusher. He celebrated sacks with a gyration of pumping arms and legs that not only bothered opponents, but some teammates, who saw Gastineau strictly as a self-promoter.

The NFL oulawed such displays in what many believe was in response to Gastineau's antics.

This year, he celebrated his sacks by outlining a 'B' with his finger and pointing his finger to the stands where Nielsen was sitting.

But despite a mediocre preseason, a high-profile divorce and a sometimes stormy relationship with Nielsen, Gastineau made the team with an $825,000 salary.

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