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Alabama mourns death of well-known fan with Down syndrome

Posted at 3:45 PM, Jun 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-07 16:46:04-04

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The University of Alabama sports community is mourning the death of a fan with Down syndrome who was known for his weekly football season visits to the athletic facilities and his pre-game predictions to coach Nick Saban.

The Tuscaloosa News reports 36-year-old Walt Gary died Thursday. He had been in a coma for several days. His grandmother, Betsy Shirley, confirmed that he experienced bleeding in his brain before his death.

Gary was in sixth grade when his mother reached out to then-Alabama coach Gene Stallings, whose son, John Mark, also had Down syndrome, a genetic condition that produces several traits including intellectual disability. Stallings often invited Gary to football practices.

The visits continued for more than 20 years.

Saban said in a statement: "Our hearts are broken by his passing."