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New Mexico retires Brian Urlacher's jersey

Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP

Brian Urlacher was a force on the defensive side of the ball for New Mexico from 1996 to 1999.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico retired former Chicago Bears star Brian Urlacher's No. 44 jersey at halftime of the Lobos' game against Air Force on Friday night.

The crowd of almost 22,000 people stood and cheered when the red banner lifted and "44 Brian Urlacher" showed up on the ring of honor at University Stadium. The Lobos also retired his locker, enclosing it in glass with his uniform inside.

"It's a big deal," said Urlacher, from the small New Mexico town of Lovington. "There's a lot of people from my hometown that came up here to watch this and be a part of it. So I'm very excited and honored to have this chance to do this.

Urlacher was a standout defensive back from 1996-99 at New Mexico, where he was a first-team All-America selection and a Jim Thorpe Award finalist. He played linebacker for the Bears, retiring after last season.

"I came a long ways form Lovington," Urlacher said. "I got to college at 195 pounds and I got to be 245 when I was done. I started growing, getting bigger, faster and when I was a junior I started getting on the radar for the scouts."

The game was his second at New Mexico since he left school, and Friday night was the first time he had been back on the field.

"It was cool to be down there again," Urlacher said. "I came back in `06 but I didn't get a chance to do that so this was pretty cool. It was a good turnout tonight and the boys are playing good."

He's relaxing after leaving the NFL.

"I'm just trying to find something to do with my time," Urlacher said. "I have a lot of free time now, which is great. Family time. I don't miss the game. I've said that the whole time. I don't miss the game. I miss my teammates."

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