ST. PAUL (AP) -Retired Minnesota Vikings lineman Jim Marshall had a felony drug conviction scrubbed from his record Monday by the state Board of Pardons.
Marshall, who appeared in 282 consecutive games over 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 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. His 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.
Marshall's four-year prison sentence for the crime was stayed and he completed probation in 1996.
Marshall said he was humiliated by the arrest, has been sober since then and has worked since to urge young people to stay away from drugs. Meshbesher said Marshall has had difficulty obtaining visas for some countries because of his criminal record.
``He's paid dearly for it,'' Meshbesher said.
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.''
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.
Marshall was part of a renowned defensive front that included Carl Eller, Alan Page and Gary Larsen in the 1970s. He played more consecutive games and recovered more opponents' fumbles than any other player in NFL history.
His career spanned nearly two decades. After starting with the Cleveland Browns he played all but one season with the Vikings until his 1979 retirement. He appeared in four Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls.

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