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Tony Sporano (56) NFL coach

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 Tony Sparano - 56

    Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano died of natural causes brought on by arteriosclerotic heart disease, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner announced on Monday.  

Four buses carried players, coaches and staff members from training camp at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan to The Church of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata for an emotional funeral service. Sparano, the Vikings’ offensive line coach the past two seasons, died Sunday from heart disease. He was 56.

Sparano was discovered by his wife at their home in Eden Prairie on Sunday as the family was getting prepared to leave for church. Sparano's official time of death was 8:54 a.m.

Sparano had complained of chest pains previously and was taken to the hospital on Thursday, but then was released on Friday after undergoing a battery of tests. 

About 250 people attended the 1 1/2-hour service, the bulk of them from the Vikings, including owner Zygi Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman, and coach Mike Zimmer. 

Others on hand: New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who coached with Sparano in Dallas; ESPN analyst and former NFL head coach Rex Ryan, who had Sparano as his offensive coordinator with the New York Jets; Rex Ryan’s twin brother Rob Ryan, a longtime defensive coordinator, and many players from other teams Sparano coached in 17 NFL seasons.

Pallbearers were Joe Berger and Vikings starting offensive linemen Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein and Rashod Hill. Berger was a starter during both of Sparano’s seasons with the Vikings before announcing his retirement in March; he also played for Sparano in Dallas and Miami.


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