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Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in the release: “He is a great competitor with Hall of Fame-worthy statistics and has made a great contribution to our community.”

Fox said Smith would have welcomed a chance to move inside to slot receiver, but the team never offered him that opportunity.

As productive as Smith was, his fiery personality often rubbed people the wrong way, and some viewed him as a distraction in the locker room. Smith had run-ins with teammates on at least two occasions. He punched out fellow wide receiver Anthony Bright in a film room fight and later socked cornerback Ken Lucas on the field during a practice at training camp in Spartanburg, S.C.

On both occasions, Smith was suspended by the team.

Delhomme said that was a “humbling experience” for Smith, who apologized to Lucas and the team’s fans after the incident.

Despite the two incidents, Smith was immensely popular with the fan base, in large part due to his production on the field. He also worked hard to change his public image over the last several years and has been an active member of the Charlotte community.

Smith said on Twitter on Wednesday that “I will always be a Carolina panther No contract can ever change that CLT is my home and will always be my home… I love you #panthernation.”

When asked if he was surprised Smith was released, Delhomme said, “It does surprise, but that’s the NFL. I mean, look, Peyton Manning plays for the Denver Broncos — that the way it goes.”

NOTES: Panthers backup quarterback Derek Anderson announced Thursday on Twitter he has re-signed with Carolina for a fourth season. Anderson tweeted: “Happy to be coming back to Charlotte next season!”