Gale Sayers, the will-o-the-wisp running back who in a short but brilliant career with the Chicago Bears left opponents, as they used to say, clutching at air, died on Wednesday. He was 77.

His death was announced by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which provided no further details.

In March 2017, his family revealed that Sayers had dementia after he had publicly displayed symptoms of it for four years. He joins a growing list of football players who developed dementia and died of brain damage while still young.

Though his career was cut short by knee injuries, “Sayers is the greatest halfback I ever saw,” Ernie Accorsi, who was general manager of three National Football League teams, wrote in an email in 2017.

A complete obituary will be published shortly.

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