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News of Kelly’s condition also attracted many well-wishers from around the world on social media. The term, “PrayersForJK,” became popular on Twitter.

“I LOVE JIM KELLY,” Kelly’s teammate and Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas posted on his Twitter account.

The diagnosis stems from pain Kelly began experiencing in his jaw in December. He initially thought it was an infection, but grew concerned when antibiotics failed to help.

Tests eventually led to doctors removing a nickel-sized cyst from his gums and nasal cavity during an operation in early March. Follow-up tests revealed the cancer.

“When you hear the word `cancer,’ it automatically scares you,” he said. “But I’m very confident. My faith is definitely there. And that probably, more than anything, has kept me going, and the support I’ve gotten from my family.”

Concerns about Kelly’s health were first raised last week when his wife, Jill Kelly, posted a message published on Without going into detail, she noted that the family was going through a “more serious battle under our roof,” and asked followers to pray for her husband “for healing.”

Later, a youth sports foundation in Sioux Falls, S.D., announced that the Hall of Famer would not be able to attend the Hy-Vee/Sanford Legends banquet on June 13 for personal reasons.

This is but the latest operation Kelly will have had over the past few years. He’s also had surgery to correct back, neck and hernia problems.

Kelly has remained active despite the diagnosis.

On May 26, he joined country music artist Tim McGraw on stage and threw footballs into the crowd during a concert outside Buffalo. A week earlier, he attended The Preakness in Baltimore.

And then there was Kelly playing host to the many weekend festivities involving his charitable foundation.

Kelly was upbeat in addressing reporters Sunday, while attending the foundation’s annual gala and auction. He was just as engaging before the golf tournament in making sure to greet many of his guests. Taking the microphone to start the tournament, Kelly joked while reminding everyone to enjoy themselves, cautioning that mulligans were not allowed.

Jim cuts a wide swath,” former teammate turned broadcaster Steve Tasker said. “He doesn’t forget people. And for that, people love him. That’s why Buffalo loves him. That’s why I love him.

“He’s a teammate in life.”

The Kelly for Kids Foundation was established in 1987, and has since donated millions of dollars to numerous organizations around the region.

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