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The move had been expected for some time. And Tomlinson, one of the most beloved athletes in San Diego sports history, officially received the word during a meeting with Chargers president Dean Spanos.
"I told him that in the 26 years that I've been in this business, it was probably the hardest thing I've had to do," Spanos told The Associated Press. "I'm not close to a lot of the players, but there's a handful that I've been close with, and he's probably the closest. It was really difficult to tell him. But out of respect, I wanted to tell him earlier rather than later."
Spanos said Tomlinson "was very, very gracious and very respectful" during their meeting.
"He had his typical smile," Spanos said. "He was just as good as could be, as respectful as could be. Just really, like he is, first class."
Tomlinson, who turned 30 last summer, was injured early in the 2009 season and finished with 730 yards on 223 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per attempt, all career lows. He was due a $2 million bonus in early March, which all but guaranteed he would be cut loose by the Chargers, even though he still had two years left on a contract that he reluctantly reworked last offseason.
"It was a longtime coming, but I knew it was coming," Tomlinson said in a telephone interview with SI.com. "Now that it's official, I can kind of look to the next step in my career and playing football for someone else."