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Bears legends George Halas, Mike Ditka make NFL all-century team

The story of the NFL could never be told without “Papa Bear” or Mike Ditka. On Friday night, the league put both men on its all-century team.

Mike Ditka made the NFL’s all-century team as a tight end.

The story of the NFL can’t be told without “Papa Bear” or Mike Ditka.

On Friday night, the league put both men on its all-century team.

George S. Halas, who founded the Bears, led them to six championships and helped launch the league, was named one of the 10 coaches on the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

“Da Coach” made it, too — but as a player. Ditka was one of five tight ends named to the squad.

Dan Fortmann, a Bears guard from 1936 to 1943, also was named to the team, while fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Clyde “Bulldog” Turner, who played center for the Bears from 1940 to 1952, was a finalist but was left off.

There was never a question Halas would be honored by the league. He infamously sat on the running boards of a Hupmobile during a gathering of football owners on Sept. 17, 1920, to create what would become the NFL.

By the time he retired in 1967, at 73, he had a 324-151-31 record, including the postseason. Halas, who died in 1983, has the Bears’ facility and the NFC title trophy named in his honor. Daughter Virginia McCaskey remains the Bears’ matriarch.

Appropriately, given the Bears’ opponent Sunday, Halas was joined by, among others, former Packers coaches Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi.

Before he was the Bears’ brash coach, Ditka was a Hall of Fame tight end.

Drafted in the first round in 1961, Ditka had 316 catches for 4,503 yards and 34 touchdowns in a six-year stint with the Bears that ended when he was traded for Eagles quarterback Jack Concannon in 1967. After two injury-plagued years in Philadelphia, he played his last four seasons for the Cowboys.

His pass-catching prowess revolutionized the position. Ditka’s 1,076 receiving yards in 1961 are still the most for any Bears tight end — and at the time were the most by any tight end. His 75 catches in 1964 were a franchise record for tight ends until Martellus Bennett caught 90 in 2014.

Ditka was one of 12 tight ends nominated for the team. The others who made the cut were Rob Gronkowski, Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez and John Mackey.

The NFL is announcing its all-century team in installments every Friday through the end of the regular season. Former Bears running backs Walter Payton and Gale Sayers, linebacker Dick Butkus, defensive ends Doug Atkins and Bill Hewitt and return man Devin Hester already were named to the team.