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James Caan, who played Brian Piccolo in Brian’s Song, dies at 82

Mike Florio and Charean Williams reflect on the career and life of NFL Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers, who died at age 77.

Actor James Caan, whose early-career role includes playing Bears running back Brian Piccolo in Brian’s Song, has died. He was 82.

Caan is best known for playing Santino “Sonny” Corleone in The Godfather. For football fans, however, he’ll always be Brian Piccolo. The close friend of Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, Piccolo died of cancer at 26 in 1970.

Caan also starred in Rollerball, a film in which the dominant worldwide sport is a violent, bloody combination of roller derby and hand-to-hand battlefield combat.

The younger folks in the audience will recognize Caan as the biological father of Will Ferrell in Elf, and as Coach Sam Winters in The Program.

Caan received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor award based on his role in The Godfather, and an Emmy nomination for best lead actor in a movie or miniseries for Brian’s Song.