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Raiders star and actor Ben Davidson dies

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Ben Davidson, the hulking defensive end who starred for the Oakland Raiders in the 1960s before becoming a famous television pitch man, has died. He was 72.

Davidson died Monday night. He was being treated for prostate cancer. Former Raiders coach John Madden first reported Davidson's death Tuesday on KCBS radio in San Francisco.

Davidson spent 11 years in professional football, starting with the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins in the NFL before joining the Raiders in the AFL in 1964.

That's where the 6-foot-8 Davidson became famous. With his distinctive handlebar mustache, raspy voice and physical play, Davidson helped personify Al Davis' renegade Raiders in the 1960s.

"He was a tough, gutsy ballplayer, team-oriented with enough meanness in him to be feared and enough talent to be effective," former Raiders teammate Tom Flores said.

One of Davidson's most memorable plays came on Nov. 1, 1970, against Kansas City. The Raiders trailed 17-14 late in the fourth quarter when Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson ran for a first down to seemingly seal the win.

As Dawson was on the ground, Davidson dived into him with his helmet and a brawl ensued.

Oakland tied the game on a field goal by George Blanda with eight seconds remaining, proving to be the difference in the AFC West race. The Raiders won the division with a record of 8-4-2, while the Chiefs missed the playoffs at 7-5-2.

After his football career, Davidson became a successful actor with roles in films like "M-A-S-H," "Conan the Barbarian" and "Necessary Roughness," and he played himself in Miller Lite ads.

Davidson is survived by his wife, Kathy, and daughters Jan, Dana and Vicki.

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