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Chicago Bears to retire Mike Ditka's number in December

By John Breech |

The Chicago Bears will be retiring Mike Ditka's number in December. (USATSI)
The Chicago Bears will be retiring Mike Ditka's number in December. (USATSI)

Apparently, Mike Ditka and the McCaskey family have buried the hatchet. The family that runs the Chicago Bears has made the decision to retire Ditka's No. 89 jersey during a December ceremony at Soldier Field.

Ditka and the McCaskeys have had a contentious relationship ever since Ditka was fired by former Bears CEO Michael McCaskey following the 1992 season.

"Mike Ditka embodies the spirit of everything the Bears are about," Bears chairman George H. McCaskey told the team's official website. "He's an icon. The last time we won a championship, Mike Ditka was our coach, and the last time we won before that, Mike Ditka was a player. The organization knew [retiring his number] was the right thing to do."

Ditka spent six seasons with the Bears, a timespan that started in 1961, when Chicago made him the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft. During that period Ditka, won the Rookie of the Year, was voted to five Pro Bowls and played a key role on the Bears' 1963 championship team.

To this day, Ditka's remains fourth overall on the Bears' career receiving list with 4,503 yards. He also ranks fifth in all-time team receptions (316) and touchdown catches (34).

In 1988, Ditka became the first tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ditka's jersey will be retired during a ceremony at halftime of the Bears' Dec. 9 Monday night home game against the Dallas Cowboys. A fitting choice, since Ditka played his final four seasons for Dallas and was a part of the Cowboys team that won Super Bowl VI.

"It's a tremendous honor," Ditka said. "It's something I didn't anticipate or expect. I'm very humbled by it and very thankful that George made the decision to go ahead and do that because it's really great."

Ditka will join 13 other Bears players who have their numbers retired, a list that includes Walter Payton, Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus. "When you think of all the great Bears players who have had their jerseys retired, I can't say that there's any greater honor," Ditka said.

Ditka, who coached the Bears 1982-92, is the only individual in the modern era of the NFL to win championships with the same team as both a player and a coach.

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