Legendary NFL running back Jim Brown will recover the 1964 championship ring he won with the Cleveland Browns from the Long Island sports memorabilia company that was trying to auction it under terms of a settlement agreed to Wednesday.
"I'm very happy," said Brown, 79, walking with a cane and looking stooped but sturdy, after a day of mediation with a magistrate in Manhattan federal court that led to the agreement. "I feel really great."
Brown says the ring was stolen in the 1960s, and sued Lelands.com of Bohemia last year to recover it and for defamation for suggesting that his memory was marred by concussion-related mental lapses.
Lelands claimed it had proper title through an ex-wife of Brown. Its lawyer said the firm was "pleased" Brown would get his ring back, but all other terms of the settlement, including the fate of the defamation claim, were confidential.
Earlier Wednesday, during a break in talks, Brown explained why the ring meant so much, and took a walk down memory lane, discussing his days as a Manhasset schoolboy star, why he quit in his prime at 29, and his role in the classic World War II film "The Dirty Dozen."
Brown, still ranked by some experts as the greatest football player ever, said the ring reflected a team effort, not an individual award -- calling it the "connecting symbol" for the 1964 players, and saying he wanted it to go to his youngest children, 12 and 13. "The team accomplished it, not me," he said, noting that it was Cleveland's last pro championship in any sport. "I think they can put that in a context that would mean a lot to them."
Brown was a three-sport high school star in Manhasset, which he used as a springboard to Syracuse University, where he was an all-American in football and lacrosse. "Manhasset was my backbone," he said.
He said he retired in 1965, after an MVP year, because of memories of sports stars like boxing champ Joe Louis, who was knocked out of the ring by Rocky Marciano in 1951 and entered retirement "old and stumbling." Brown wanted to finish strong. "A lot of players play too long and pity settles in," he said. "I didn't want pity."
He described the all-star cast of 1967's "The Dirty Dozen" -- including Lee Marvin, Donald Sutherland and Charles Bronson -- as a wild bunch who partied hard as they filmed the story of a crew of misfits sent on a suicide mission in German territory.
In Brown's famous final scene, as all hell is breaking loose, he races through machine-gun fire to toss grenades down a row of air shafts to destroy a Nazi complex before being cut down as he dashes for the getaway truck. "I got it in one take," he recalled. "I didn't want to be hitting that cement too many times."