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Cam Newton mourns 10-year-old: 'His heart was huge'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wears several wristbands on his left arm, but one held more significance than the others Wednesday.

It was the one he got at a Halloween block party he crashed in September to surprise 10-year-old Elijah Aschbrenner.

The band says, "Prayers for Elijah" and "Never give up."

Elijah died Tuesday night of a rare form of cancer.

"Man, I didn't even want to talk about it just out of respect to him, but ... it's crazy just to think back of a person who is so young but his heart was huge," Newton said.

The party was thrown in September because that was Elijah's favorite holiday and there were concerns at the time he wouldn't live until the actual event.

Newton planned his appearance when he heard what was happening in nearby Concord, North Carolina.

"When I was introduced to Elijah his mom was crying," Newton said. "He couldn't raise his voice. But all he said was, 'Mom, wipe your tears.' It put a lot of things in perspective. A person that was going through so much internally with physical problems is telling his mom to wipe her tears because it's OK."

Newton said that Elijah wanting to meet him helped give purpose to what he does as an NFL player.

"Why am I playing this game?" he said. "Just to give hope to people like that."

Newton recalled how low Elijah's energy was when they first met.

"But yet he was talking about statistics, talking about football, talking about Auburn, something that he loved," said Newton, who led Auburn to the 2010 national championship. "I was asking him things that he liked. He said he loved Papa John's Brownies. They are pretty good.

"And he loves steak. For his party, my foundation put in a major order for steak and brownies, the side French fries. He liked that, too."

Becky Hughes wrote this on Facebook after her son passed: "At 10:52 p.m., my baby went to be with Jesus. Our lives will never be the same; but because of him our lives were forever changed."

Elijah touched Newton for sure.

"I'm just so thankful that Elijah was a person that I could touch and talk to and be around just for a minute minute to his life," said Newton, who took time to talk about Elijah instead of Carolina's 8-0 start. "There are kids all across America, people all across America, that look to football to be their saving grace.

"I just thank God for putting me on this pinnacle that I can shine light to other people."