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Former Colt, 49er Lyles was one of NFL's early black players

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Former NFL defensive back and reliable return man Leonard Lyles, who helped break football's color barrier as one of the early black players, has died. He was 74.

The San Francisco 49ers said Monday that Lyles died Nov. 20 at Louisville Jewish Hospital. No other details were provided.

Lyles was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1958 draft out of Louisville and spent 10 of his 12 seasons with the Colts, interrupted by a two-year stint with the 49ers in 1959 and '60. He retired in 1969, finishing his career with 2,161 return yards and an average of 26.7 yards per return.

He remains Louisville's all-time scoring leader for a non-kicker with 300 points.

Lyles, who spent 27 years as an executive with Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. in Louisville, was born Jan. 26, 1936, in Nashville, Tenn.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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