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Cunningham this year's Hall inductee

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Running back Sam “Bam” Cunningham is this year’s inductee into the Patriots Hall of Fame, owner Robert Kraft announced today.

Cunningham, who played for the franchise from 1973-82, is the Patriots’ all-time leading rusher (5,453 yards).

“I think [about] sitting in the stands, like so many of us who have been Patriot fans, just remembering the great job he did for the Patriots, and the excitement and thrills he gave us,” Kraft said.

Center Jon Morris and defensive lineman Houston Antwine were the other finalists.

In a conference call this afternoon, Cunningham said that he felt Antwine and Morris were also deserving of induction, before sharing his reaction upon hearing that he was the choice.

"I'm ecstatic about being a part of the Patriots Hall of Fame, because there are so many great players, about 5 or 6 that I've played with," he said. "It's just nice to be part of that, and to be hooked up with them again and be a part of something very special."

Last year, Cunningham returned to the area for the first time in decades when owner Robert Kraft hosted the 50th Anniversary Team for a gala at his home. Cunningham praised Kraft for the work he's done since buying the team in 1994, and also said he is grateful to former owner Billy Sullivan for giving him the opportunity to play in the NFL.

A public ceremony will be held outside the team's Hall of Fame on Thursday, Aug. 12, prior to the team’s 2010 preseason debut against the New Orleans Saints. The event is free.