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Former professional wrestler Dusty Rhodes dead at 69

Dusty Rhodes attends the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation's 12th Annual Celebrity Gala at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on Nov. 13, 2014, in New York.

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WWE says Virgil Runnels, a former professional wrestler known by his fans as Dusty Rhodes, has died. He was 69.

The company says Runnels died Thursday, but a spokesman declined to say where or how he died, saying the family had not authorized the release of that information. Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO of the WWE, announced the news Thursday on Twitter:

Runnels, who also went by the nickname "The American Dream," was a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, and held the NWA championship three times. He became famous during the height of wrestling's popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, appearing in signature yellow polka dot tights with his sidekick "valet" Sapphire.

He also was the father of two other famous WWE wrestlers: Dustin Runnels, better known as Goldust, and Cody Runnels who wrestles under the name Stardust.