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Panthers release 34-year-old WR Smith Thursday

Panthers release 34-year-old WR Smith Thursday

Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith (89) reacts after catching a long pass against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. Photo: Associated Press/AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Steve Reed, AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers announced they’ve released their all-time leading receiver Steve Smith.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman says in a release Thursday it “was not an easy decision.”

He says Smith “has been one of the NFL’s finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team’s history. As a team, we made a step forward last year; however we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL.”

The decision comes one day after Smith’s agent Derrick Fox told The Associated Press that the 13-year NFL veteran “is not going to play for the Panthers next year, I know that.”

Smith, who turns 35 in May, ranks 19th all-time in the NFL in receptions.

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