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Steve McNair found murdered in Nashville

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. Ñ Police were working Sunday to unravel the relationship between slain former NFL quarterback Steve McNair and his friend, a 20-year-old woman who was found shot to death alongside him in his downtown condominium.

McNair, who led the famous Tennessee TitansÕ drive that came a yard short of forcing overtime in the 2000 Super Bowl, was found dead on a sofa in the living room Saturday with multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head. His friend, Sahel Kazemi, was very close to him on the floor, killed by a single gunshot. A pistol was discovered near her, but police said it took a while to find the firearm.

Authorities didnÕt immediately say who was to blame for the killings, but they werenÕt looking for any suspects.

McNair, 36, and Kazemi were together just two days earlier, when she was pulled over driving a 2007 Escalade registered to her and McNair. She was arrested on a DUI charges, and he was allowed to leave in a taxi.

McNair and Kazemi apparently knew each other from a restaurant the quarterback and his family frequented, but workers there wouldnÕt talk about their relationship. Police also refused to release any details about their relationship, simply calling Kazemi a Òfriend.Ó

Autopsies were planned for Sunday.

Police spokesman Don Aaron said McNairÕs wife, Mechelle, is Òvery distraught.Ó

ÒAt this juncture, we do not believe she is involved,Ó he said. ÒNothing has been ruled out, but as far as actively looking for a suspect tonight, the answer would be no.Ó

Fred McNair, Steve McNairÕs oldest brother, said some family members likely will travel to Nashville on Monday to consult with Mechelle.

ÒItÕs still kind of hard to believe,Ó Fred McNair said. ÒHe was the greatest person in the world. He gave back to the community. He loved kids and he wanted to be a role model to kids.Ó

He said he did not know who Kazemi was.

The bodies were discovered by McNairÕs longtime friend, Wayne Neeley, who rents the condo with McNair. Neeley told authorities he went into the condo, saw McNair and Kazemi, but walked first into the kitchen before going back into the living room.

Neeley then called a friend, who alerted authorities.

Police said a witness saw McNair arrive at the condo in the upscale Rutledge Hill neighborhood between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Saturday and that KazemiÕs vehicle was already there. The condominium is located within walking distance of an area filled with restaurants and nightspots, a few blocks from the Cumberland River and within view of the TitansÕ stadium.

An arrest affidavit from Thursday said Kazemi had bloodshot eyes and alcohol on her breath when she was pulled over, but refused a breathalyzer test, saying Òshe was not drunk, she was high.Ó

McNair and his family frequented the restaurant where Kazemi was a waitress, according employees and patrons of Dave & BusterÕs in Nashville. Keith Norfleet, KazemiÕs ex-boyfriend, told The Tennessean newspaper that McNair and Kazemi met at the restaurant.

ÒShe was reliable 90 percent of the time,Ó manager Chris Truelove said of Kazemi. ÒShe was pretty outgoing. A lot of the guests liked being around her, and she liked being around the guests.Ó

Co-worker Shantez Jobe, 33, she said was friends with Kazemi.

ÒWe talked about who had more fashion sense, and who was the cutest, and who could get more boys, you know some of the stuff girls do,Ó Jobe said.

In June, McNair opened a restaurant near the Tennessee State University campus. It was closed Saturday evening, but had become a small memorial, where flowers, candles and notes had been placed outside the door.

McNair, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, led the Titans to the 2000 Super Bowl, which they lost 23-16 to the St. Louis Rams. He was co-MVP of the NFL with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in 2003. He also played for the Baltimore Ravens before retiring in April 2008.

His most notable moment came in the 2000 Super Bowl. With the Titans trailing by seven, he led the team 87 yards in the final minute and 48 seconds, only to come up a yard short of a touchdown. Kevin Dyson caught his 9-yard pass, but was tackled at the 1-yard line by the RamsÕ Mike Jones.

McNair accounted for all of TennesseeÕs yards in that drive, throwing for 48 yards and rushing for 14. The rest of the yardage came on penalties against the Rams. Before that, he brought the Titans back from a 16-0 deficit to tie the game.

ÒIf you were going to draw a football player, the physical part, the mental part, everything about being a professional, he is your guy,Ó former Ravens and Titans teammate Samari Rolle said. ÒI canÕt even wrap my arms around it.Ó

McNair grew up in rural Mount Olive, Miss., and became a nationally known college football star playing for Alcorn State, a Division I-AA school in his home state. He was so dominant in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, he became a Heisman Trophy contender. National media flocked to little Lorman in the southwest corner of the Magnolia state to get a look at ÒAir McNair.Ó He still holds the Division I-AA (now known as Football Championship Subdivision) records for career yards passing (14,496) and total offense (16,823).

McNair was the third overall draft pick in 1995 by the Houston Oilers, who eventually became the Titans. He finished his career with 31,304 yards passing and 174 touchdowns. McNairÕs rugged style led to numerous injuries and aches. He played with pain for several years, and the injuries ultimately forced him to retire.

ÒOn the field, there isnÕt a player that was as tough as him, especially at the quarterback position,Ó the RavensÕ Derrick Mason said.

During a five-game stretch at the end of the 2002 season, McNair was so bruised he couldnÕt practice. But he started all five games and won them, leading the Titans to an 11-5 record and a berth in the AFC championship game for the second time in four seasons.

McNair played all 16 games in 2006, his first season in Baltimore, and guided the Ravens to a 13-3 record. But he injured his groin during the season opener in 2007 and never regained the form that put him in those Pro Bowls.

Steve McNair found shot to death [Tennessean.com]

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