Larry Lage, AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Alex Karras was a man of many roles.
Fearsome NFL defensive lineman. Lovable TV dad. Hilarious big-screen cowboy.
And in the end, a dementia victim who blamed the NFL for his illness along with thousands of former players in lawsuits accusing the league of not doing enough to protect them from the long-term effects of head injuries.
The 77-year-old Karras, who managed to be tough, touching and tragic in the span of a lifetime, died Wednesday at his Los Angeles home surrounded by family members, said Craig Mitnick, Karras' attorney.
Karras was one of the NFL's most ferocious — and best — defensive tackles for the Detroit Lions from 1958-70, bulling past offensive lineman and hounding quarterbacks.
The charismatic bruiser went into acting after his football career, and in his signature scene dropped a horse with a punch as the soft-hearted outlaw Mongo in the 1974 comedy "Blazing Saddles." He also portrayed the father in the 1980s sitcom "Webster," along with his actress-wife Susan Clark, and was in the "Monday Night Football" broadcast booth along the way.
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