ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -Former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall's felony drug conviction was scrubbed from his record Monday by the state Board of Pardons with the aid of his former coach.
Marshall, an ironman of pro football for nearly two decades, won a pardon for his 1991 conviction on a cocaine possession charge, a clean bill of health he sought so he can travel the world without restrictions to do work for a nonprofit he co-founded.
Now 70, Marshall came to a hearing at the state courts building with his former coach, Hall of Famer Bud Grant, and lawyer Ron Meshbesher. Marshall's application for the pardon included letters of support from policemen and former Minnesota Chief Justice A.M. ``Sandy'' Keith.
``It's very important for me to regain my reputation,'' Marshall told the board, which consists of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, current Chief Justice Russell Anderson and Attorney General Lori Swanson.
Pawlenty said the pardon had nothing to do with Marshall's status as a former Viking.
``We grant pardons like this routinely for many people at every one of our meetings,'' Pawlenty said. ``I'm kind of beyond the point where I get impressed by old football players. I'm not 10.''
Eight other people received pardons Monday for offenses ranging from burglary to forgery. Three pardon requests were turned down.
Marshall's four-year prison sentence for the crime was stayed and he completed probation in 1996, according to a board file.
Marshall said he was humiliated by the arrest, has been sober since then and has worked with the Life's Missing Link charity to urge young people to stay away from drugs. Meshbesher said Marshall has had difficulty obtaining travel visas for some countries because of his criminal record.
``He's paid dearly for it,'' said Meshbesher, who believes the conviction cost Marshall a chance at the Hall of Fame.
Grant spoke of Marshall as a continuing ambassador for the franchise who is willing to help whenever he can.
``This is the man who represents the image of the Vikings,'' Grant said. ``I'd like to return his dignity and have (the crime) stricken from his record.''
Marshall was part of a renowned defensive front that included Carl Eller, Alan Page and Gary Larsen in the 1970s. Marshall played more consecutive games and recovered more opponents' fumbles than any other player in NFL history.
His NFL career began in 1960 with the Cleveland Browns. A year later, he was traded to the Vikings and played there until his 1979 retirement. He appeared in four Super Bowls, two Pro Bowls and 282 consecutive regular-season games.
The board's only hesitation was Marshall's numerous speeding tickets. Marshall assured them that he has learned to lay off the accelerator and hasn't been stopped for speeding since 2005.
Anderson, who made the motion for pardon, declined to comment later. Pawlenty said Marshall's remorse and the work he's done to atone for the crime were sufficient justifications for the pardon.

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