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Will Smith

Super Bowl-winning former NFL player shot dead in road rage incident

Will Smith, who played for the New Orleans Saints, was shot and killed yesterday.

Bounties Saints Players Football Smith in 2007. Associated Press Associated Press

FORMER NFL STAR Will Smith, who played for the New Orleans Saints, was shot and killed yesterday in what appears to have been a road rage incident. His death has shocked fans of the much-beloved athlete.

An emailed statement from New Orleans city coroner Jeffrey C. Rouse said that Smith died “of multiple gunshot wounds” after a traffic accident in the city’s Lower Garden District.

The former defensive end was 34 years old.

New Orleans Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble today identified the suspect as Cardell Hayes, 29.

Gamble said the investigation was ongoing but did not release further details.

Online court records show Hayes pleaded guilty in 2014 to one count each of possessing an illegal weapon and possessing drug paraphernalia.

A tweet from the verified account of Greg Bensel, Saints vice president of communications and broadcasting, expressed condolences to Smith’s family.

The Smith family also released a statement through a public relations firm.

“On behalf of the Smith family, we are thankful for the outpouring of support and prayers. We ask that you continue to respect the family’s privacy as they grieve the loss of a devoted husband, father and friend,” the statement read.

Road rage

Smith appeared to be the victim of a road rage accident.

He was driving in a Mercedes late yesterday through an upscale part of the city called the Lower Garden District when his vehicle was hit from behind by another vehicle, an orange Hummer H2, police said.

That caused Smith’s vehicle to hit a grey Chevrolet Impala in front of him. Two acquaintances of Smith’s were in the Impala but not injured.

At some point in the ensuing incident, Smith and Hayes — the driver of the Hummer — exchanged words, police said. That’s when police say Hayes pulled out a gun and shot Smith multiple times.

Saints Will Smith Shot Football Smith in 2012 Associated Press Associated Press

Smith’s wife, who was traveling with him, was shot in the leg. She was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Police said Smith died at the scene.

Police said they recovered the weapon and took Hayes into custody.

Smith’s death shocked football fans across the Crescent City, where the former end was a loved and respected figure both on and off the field.

Super Bowl winner

A native of Queens, New York, Smith played for Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team and was a first-round draft choice by New Orleans in 2004.

He led the Saints with a career-high 13 sacks in 2009, when the team won its only Super Bowl.

He last played in an NFL regular season game in 2012, finishing his career with 67 ½ sacks.

During the 2013 preseason, a knee injury forced him onto injured reserve. He was signed in the 2014 offseason by New England but did not make the Patriots’ regular season roster.

Off the field, Smith took an active role in trying to improve the lives of children in New Orleans. He established a foundation called, Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way, in 2007. Its stated mission is “to motivate, educate and provide opportunities for women and children”.

After football, he settled in Louisiana, his wife’s native state. His shooting came during the weekend of the French Quarter festival, a popular festival featuring local music and food.

Smith leaves behind his wife, Racquel, and three children.

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