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Mike Ditka leaving ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ as part of new role at ESPN

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 29: Mike Ditka,

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 29: Mike Ditka, former NFL player and coach, and current ESPN analyst, talks with reporters during the ESPN media availablility in the Empire West Ballroom, at Super Bowl XLVIII Media Center at the Sheraton New York Times Square on January 28, 2014 in New York, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Credit: Getty Images / Maddie Meyer

Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka is departing as a regular analyst on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” and will take up a new role as a contributor to the network’s “SportsCenter” shows.

ESPN made the announcement Wednesday. Talks on a new contract began last season and resulted in a two-year deal.

The 76-year-old Ditka has said that traveling each weekend to the network’s Bristol, Conn., studios from his homes in Chicago and Florida became too wearying. Instead, he’ll contribute more from remote studios near his homes.

“The work of being an analyst is not hard,” Ditka told the Chicago Tribune in a 2013 interview. “The hard part is getting there. If I had a way to get there instantly, on a private plane or something, it would be different. Going through the airports kind of gets old.”

ESPN has said former NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has announced his retirement, will be added to “Countdown” as an analyst.

New York Sports