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Dolphins legend Buoniconti dies at 78

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Miami (AFP)

Miami Dolphins legend Nick Buoniconti, a key figure in the franchise's Super Bowl-winning unbeaten season in 1972, has died, his family confirmed Wednesday. He was 78.

Buoniconti helped the Dolphins win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972 and 1973, the highlight of a career which spanned two decades between 1962 and 1976.

After his retirement, the Hall of Famer was one of the driving forces in setting up the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a leading research and treatment centers for spinal cord injuries.

Buoniconti was inspired to help set up the center after his son Marc was left paralysed while playing college football.

"My dad has been my hero and represents what I have always aspired to be; a leader, a mentor and a champion," Marc Buoniconti said in a statement on the center's website Wednesday.

"He made a promise to me that turned into a revolution in paralysis research. We can best honor his dedication and endless commitment by continuing with our work until that promise is fulfilled and a cure is found," he added.

Buoniconti started his career with the Boston Patriots in 1962 before moving to the Dolphins in 1969.

He played a pivotal role in helping the Dolphins reach three straight Super Bowls in 1971, 1972 and 1973.

The highlight of his career came in 1972, when the Dolphins went 17-0 to become the only team in history to record a perfect season en route to the Super Bowl.

Buoniconti, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, tallied 32 interceptions during his career, the third highest total for any linebacker in NFL history.

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