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Chuck Muncie dies, leaves legacy as NFL star who fought drug abuse

Chuck Muncie dies: A former NFL running back, Chuck Muncie went to jail for selling cocaine. But later, Chuck Muncie helped at-risk kids with his story of drug abuse. "His most impressive work was done in the second chapter of his life," says his former wife.

By Brett MartelAssociated Press / May 15, 2013

San Diego Charges quarterback Dan Fouts (14) and running back Chuck Muncie (46) flash big smiles as they leave field following the Chargers win over the Buffalo Bills in an NFL football playoff game in San Diego in 1980. Muncie, a Pro Bowl running back with both the Saints and Chargers, has died. He was 60.

(AP Photo/File)

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Metairie, La.

Chuck Muncie, a Pro Bowl running back with both the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers, has died at age 60, the NFL clubs and a family spokesman said Tuesday.

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Muncie family spokesman Vintage Foster said Muncie died at his Los Angeles-area home on Monday from heart failure.

Muncie was the Saints' first-round pick, third overall, out of California in 1976. He played 4½ seasons in New Orleans before being traded in 1980 to San Diego, where he finished his nine-year NFL career.

In 1979, Muncie became the first Saint to rush for 1,000 yards, finishing with 1,198 and 11 touchdowns, and his 1,506 total yards from scrimmage earned him the first of his three Pro Bowl selections.

Muncie and fellow Saints running back Tony Galbreath formed what then-coach Hank Stram dubbed the "Thunder and Lightning" combination in the New Orleans backfield. Muncie's photo is among those featured on the Saints' Hall of Honor inside the club's training facility.

Saints owner Tom Benson said in a written statement that the Saints were mourning Muncie's "untimely passing," adding, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and other loved ones at this difficult time."

Muncie was traded by the Saints at midseason in 1980 to San Diego, where he played 51 games and was named to Pro Bowl rosters two more times, in 1981 and '82. In 2009, the club recognized him as one of the 50 greatest Chargers of all time.

His accomplishments on the field came despite cocaine use, and in 1989, five years after his retirement from pro football, Muncie was sentenced to 18 months in prison for a cocaine distribution conviction.

Thereafter, however, he began sharing his life story with at-risk youth, highlighting his struggles with drug abuse. He created the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation, the mission of which was to offer children mentoring, educational assistance and counseling.

"His work with at-risk youth, the Boys and Girls Clubs and his foundation were the things that really made him shine," Muncie's daughter, Danielle Ward, said in a written statement provided by Foster.

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