Ford always kept the Lions close to his heart and was loyal perhaps to a fault.
While each of Detroit's other three professional franchises — the Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers — have won at least one championship in relatively recent decades, the Lions were synonymous with losing under Ford.
He seemed to lead the Lions with a light touch, leaving most decisions up to administrators such as Russ Thomas, Chuck Schmidt, Millen and current general manager Martin Mayhew.
In league circles, he was very popular.
"For five decades, Mr. Ford's passion for the Lions, Detroit, and the NFL was the foundation of one of the NFL's historic franchises," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "As an NFL owner, Mr. Ford helped bring the NFL through enormous periods of change and growth, always guided by his commitment to what was best for the NFL and his beloved Lions."
Ford was married to the former Martha Parke Firestone, an heiress to the Akron, Ohio, rubber fortune. Her grandfather, Harvey Firestone, was a close friend of Henry Ford. They had three daughters, a son, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report.
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