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Unitas Funeral Draws 2,000

September 18, 2002|From Associated Press

With the wail of bagpipes filling the cathedral and his coffin covered in white lilies and roses, Johnny Unitas was remembered as "the greatest," a quarterback who made the impossible possible.

With more than 2,000 relatives, fans and friends in attendance, the Hall of Famer was honored Tuesday in Baltimore as a leader who forever changed the NFL and made everyone around him better. Unitas died Wednesday of a heart attack at 69.

Former Baltimore Colt receiver Raymond Berry, Unitas' most frequent target, told the crowd his teammate was a "once-in-a-lifetime quarterback."

"You elevated all of us to unreachable levels, whether we were in the stands or on the field," Berry said.

Berry was joined at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Baltimore Raven Coach Brian Billick and players Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Michael McCrary. Also attending were former Baltimore Colt teammates Art Donovan and Tom Matte.

"He was mythic," Tagliabue said. "He symbolizes football and, more importantly, he symbolizes leadership."

The memorial service and funeral Mass were open to the public. The coffin was closed and the body was to be cremated.

Unitas played for the Colts from 1956-72, and for the San Diego Chargers in 1973. He set 22 NFL passing records, was the league's most valuable player three times and was selected for the Pro Bowl 10 times. He won three championships.

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The Minnesota Vikings signed kicker Gary Anderson two days after Doug Brien missed two extra points and a field goal in an overtime loss to Buffalo. Brien will remain with the Vikings to handle kickoffs and long field goals.

Anderson, 43, is the NFL's oldest active player, in his 21st season, and is the league's leading scorer with 2,133 career points.

The Vikings signed him as a free agent in 1998 and he played with the team through last season.

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