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Peyton Manning leads tributes for ESPN star Chris Mortensen, dead at 72

Peyton Manning has shared his grief at the death of ESPN legend Chris Mortensen.

The retired NFL great took to social media to post about the friendship he and the sports commentator had shared.

"We lost a true legend," Peyton wrote, alongside photos of the two of them.

"Mort was the best in the business and I cherished our friendship. I trusted him with my announcement to sign with the Broncos and with the news of my retirement. I will miss him dearly and my thoughts and prayers are with Micki & his family. Rest in peace, Mort."

A Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, Chris had retired from sports network ESPN only six months prior, in September 2023.

"Excited about another season but it's time to reveal after my 33rd NFL draft in April, I made a decision to step away from ESPN and focus on my health, family and faith," he wrote via X/Twitter at the time.

"The gratitude and humility is overwhelming. It's not a classic retirement. I'll still be here talking ball. It's just time. God Bless you all."

ESPN, the network he built his career on, shared a photo of a smiling Chris, accompanied by the caption, "ESPN is very sorry to have to share this devastating news. Award-winning journalist Chris Mortensen passed away this morning at the age of 72."

And Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN, personally wrote a statement on behalf of the network.

"Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate," the statement read.

"He covered the NFL with extraordinary skill and passion, and was at the top of his field for decades. He will truly be missed by colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts are with his loved ones."