(CBS) Veteran cornerback Charles Tillman's time in Chicago has officially come to an end.
Tillman, 34, signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday afternoon, the team announced. He spent the first 12 seasons of his NFL career with the Bears after they drafted him in the second round of the 2003 draft.
A fan favorite who was also regularly involved in charity work and community affairs, Tillman has 36 career interceptions, which rank third in Bears franchise history. His 42 forced fumbles are also first in franchise history. Tillman also reached the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012.
"The Bears have been around for nearly a century, and Charles Tillman will go down as one of the best to ever wear blue and orange," Bears chairman George McCaskey told the team's website.
"Charles' 'Peanut Punch' is now a part of Bears lore. We witnessed what I believe is the best takeaway artist of his era. But as impressive as his on-field accomplishments are, his contributions off the field are unmatched. Through his Cornerstone Foundation, Charles and his family have made an impact on the lives of many. He was duly honored as the 2013 Walter Payton Man of the Year and the 2012 NFL Salute to Service winner for his dedication.
"We are deeply appreciative of how he has represented our team. We wish Charles and his family the very best as he continues his career in Carolina. And when he decides his time on the field has concluded, we look forward to welcoming him back to the Bears family."
Tillman had played just 10 games in Chicago over the past two years because of injuries. There was no expectation that the Bears would re-sign Tillman, as the new leadership regime headed by general manager Ryan Pace has expressed a desire to get younger and build through the draft. Chicago also recently signed cornerback Alan Ball.
Tillman inked a one-year, $3.05-million deal with the Panthers after also drawing interest from the Buccaneers and Seahawks, ESPN's Adam Caplan reported.
In Carolina, Tillman is reunited with Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who he played for when Rivera was the Bears' defensive coordinator from 2004-'06.
"Coach Rivera was one of the main reasons why I wanted to be here," Tillman said, according to the Panthers' official website. "He's a guy that I had a lot of respect for when I was in Chicago. I love his leadership and his qualities as a coach, and he's done a good job with the Panthers. There's a good group of guys here."
Tillman had been in Carolina since Wednesday for a visit with the Panthers, who tweeted out the photo below Thursday afternoon.
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