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The arrival of Michael Jordan and Pitbull as co-owners of NASCAR Cup Series teams has opened the door for a new wave of celebrity car owners and investors to enter the sport of stock car racing. That wave will continue in 2022, as a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back will take a prominent role in a new NASCAR Xfinity Series team.

In a story by Nate Ryan of NBC Sports, it was revealed that Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith will become a partner in newly vformed Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, which will enter the Xfinity Series full time beginning in 2022. The team's primary owner and driver will be Iwuji, a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve who has raced part time in NASCAR since 2018.

Iwuji -- who is from Carrollton, Texas, a suburb of Dallas -- first partnered with Smith last year when he earned sponsorship from Notable Live, a company which was co-founded by the Cowboys great.

Through their new race team, Iwuji and Smith are hoping to reach lower-income communities through eSports and STEM initiatives and create programs to help people from non-traditional backgrounds pursue careers in auto racing. Presently, Iwuji is the only Black driver besides Cup star Bubba Wallace who competes semi-regularly in NASCAR.

"Now that the opportunity has presented itself, whether NASCAR or the NFL or any other sport or Corporate America, the opportunity to engage with minority entities and minority companies is vast," Smith told NBC Sports. "And all people are asking for is an opportunity to even prove themselves. That's all Jesse is asking for is an opportunity to prove himself and prove he belongs at this level.

"So this is another way to continue to expand and penetrate communities through an individual like Jesse and the team we've assembled together to really spread awareness and create hope for others."

While being the NFL's all-time leading rusher with the Cowboys is his primary claim to fame, Smith does have some background in NASCAR. His father, who worked as a bus driver in Florida, was a race fan and collected NASCAR memorabilia. Smith has since gone on to attend races at Bristol and Texas Motor Speedway, and last fall gave the command to start engines for the Xfinity Series race at the speedway.

Smith is also the latest legendary Cowboy to take a prominent role in a NASCAR team. In the mid-2000s, Hall of Fame Cowboys quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman served as the co-owner of Hall of Fame Racing, which competed full-time in Cup from 2006 to 2009.