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Former Raiders star QB Stabler dies

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Former NFL quarterback Ken Stabler attends the Yankees and Braves spring training game in Kissimmee, Florida, in this file photo taken March 8, 2005. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/Files

Ken Stabler, a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback who led the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI, died Wednesday at age 69.

His family posted an announcement on his Facebook page Thursday: "We announce with great sadness that our father, Ken Stabler, passed away Wednesday, July 8, as a result of complications associated with colon cancer."

The family said he was battling Stage 4 colon cancer since being diagnosed in February.

WPMI-TV in Mobile, Ala., reported that Stabler died in Gulfport, Miss.

"The Raiders are deeply saddened by the passing of the great Ken Stabler," owner Mark Davissaid in a statement. "He was a cherished member of the Raider family and personified what it means to be a Raider. He wore the Silver and Black with Pride and Poise and will continue to live in the hearts of Raider fans everywhere. Our sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to Kenny's family."

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John Madden said in a statement, "I was head coach of the Raiders the entire time Kenny was there and he led us to a whole bunch of victories including one in Super Bowl XI. I've often said, If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny. Snake was a lot cooler that I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders you think about Ken Stabler. Kenny loved life. It is a sad day for all Raiders."

The statement by his family said Stabler -- a football legend at the University of Alabama -- was surrounded by his three daughters and longtime partner and died peacefully while listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," among other favorite songs.

His brain and spinal cord were donated to Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center to aid in the research of degenerative brain disease in athletes, his family said.

"He wanted to make a difference in the lives of others in both life and death," the family said.

Stabler, who was nicknamed "The Snake" in high school, starred at Alabama under legendary coach Bear Bryant in the 1960s before spending 15 years in the NFL. He is still the Raiders' career passing leader with 19,078 yards.

A second-round pick of the Raiders in 1968, he replaced Daryle Lamonica in 1973 and took the Raiders to five consecutive AFC title games. Oakland lost in all but the AFC Championship Game following the 1976 season, when the Raiders advanced to the Super Bowl and beat theMinnesota Vikings 32-14.

After 10 seasons with the Raiders, Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers in 1980 for quarterback Dan Pastorini.

Stabler threw for 5,190 yards, 27 touchdowns and 46 interceptions with Houston, and the Oilers went 16-12 with him under center. In the 1980 playoffs, they lost to the Raiders, who went on to win the Super Bowl.

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Stabler followed Oilers coach Bum Phillips to New Orleans to finish his career with the Saints (1982-84).

Alabama coach Nick Saban issued a statement Thursday that read: "I have had the chance to be around some of the best to ever play college and pro football, and Kenny may have been one of the greatest competitors to ever play the game. I was lucky enough to work with him on our radio broadcast my first year in Tuscaloosa and also have some special memories with him at a couple of our golf events. He was not only an outstanding football player, he was an all-around great guy and someone I really enjoyed spending time with. We lost a legend today and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

Crimson Tide athletic director Bill Battle wrote of Stabler: "While there have been many outstanding players in our great football history at Alabama, I think it's safe to say that few -- if any -- connected with our fans in the way that Kenny did."

Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon tweeted: "So sorry to hear about the passing of a true Raider legend Ken Stabler, the original #12. It was a pleasure to know him and wear his number!"

Former Raiders teammate Willie Brown told SiriusXM NFL Radio: "He was a great leader, a great Raider and should be in the Hall of Fame."

Many have lobbied for his enshrinement; he was a finalist in 1990, 1991 and 2003.

Stabler recently was working on a book with The Sports Xchange's Tom LaMarre, a former Raiders beat writer. About three weeks ago, Stabler told LaMarre he had cancer but wanted to complete the book.

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