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Bears to retire Ditka's No. 89

CHICAGO (AP) - Hall of Famer Mike Ditka will have his No. 89 retired by the Chicago Bears next season.

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The Bears said Friday the number will be retired at halftime of their Monday night game against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field on Dec. 9, a fitting tribute for a player who revolutionized the tight end position with his pass-catching ability and later coached the 1985 team to the Super Bowl championship.

In a statement, he called it ``a tremendous honor'' and added: ``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. I'm very humbled by it and very thankful that (chairman George McCaskey) made the decision to go ahead and do that because it's really great.''

McCaskey said Ditka ``embodies the spirit of everything the Bears are about.''

Ditka is the only person in the NFL's modern era to win a title with the same team as both a player (1963) and head coach.

The fifth overall pick in the 1961 draft, he played six seasons with the Bears and made five Pro Bowls. He caught 316 passes for 4,503 yards with 34 touchdowns with Chicago before going on to play six more years with Philadelphia and Dallas.

He was hired as the Bears' coach in January 1982 and went on to lead them to a 106-62 record, with the `85 team going 15-1 while shuffling its way to the championship.

Ditka's number will be the 14th retired by the Bears. And McCaskey indicated there won't be any more, saying, ``After this, we do not intend to retire any more numbers but we thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89.''

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