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Edward DeBartolo Jr.

Trump pardons former San Francisco

President Donald Trump has pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal.

DeBartolo Jr., who built the San Francisco 49ers' 1980s-'90s dynasty, was involved in one of the biggest owners' scandals in the sport's history. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license.

Trump signed the executive order at the White House and had met with several NFL players, including former Niners' Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott, about the pardon.  The White House announced the surprise decision to reporters on Tuesday.

"I take my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did," Rice said at the announcement. "Today is a great day."

Rice credited DeBartolo for doing "so much in the community." 

A reporter asked the football stars: Does it bother you that Trump's pardons seem to only affect wealthy people? The question wasn't exactly answered. 

Other NFL greats said that the DeBartolo name was iconic for philanthropy and that he should be forgiven for transgressions of the past. 

DeBartolo Jr., whose San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls under his leadership, stepped down as owner in 1997 after two Louisiana newspapers reported he would be indicted for gambling fraud.

He avoided prison, was fined $1 million and was suspended for a year by the NFL. But the episode effectively ended his NFL career.

Rice, an NFL Hall of Famer who played on three of DeBartolo's Super Bowl-winning teams, said DeBartolo “was like that 12th man” of the great 49ers teams.

“He's the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls,” Rice said. "So today is a great day for him. I'm glad to be here and be a part of that. It's just something I will never forget. This man, he has done so much in the community, has done so much in NFL football."

DeBartolo Jr. is a resident of Tampa and is the co-founder of the Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School. The millionaire businessman is still involved in real estate in the Tampa Bay area.

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