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Former NFL running back Ajayi joins MLS esports team

FILE PHOTO: NFL Football - Miami Dolphins vs New Orleans Saints - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - October 1, 2017 Miami Dolphins' Jay Ajayi shakes hands with New Orleans Saints' Adrian Peterson at the end of the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

(Reuters) - Former National Football League player Jay Ajayi traded in his helmet for a video game controller as the London-born running back was named this week as the official esports player for Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.

Ajayi, who won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, is the first NFL player to become a professional gamer and will represent the Union for the 2020 eMLS Cup campaign starting on Friday.

“Philadelphia will always hold a special place in my heart. I am blessed to be able to represent the city through esports and to be one of the first pro athletes to become a professional gamer,” Ajayi said in a statement.

“Representing the Philadelphia Union for eMLS combines two of my greatest passions outside of football, soccer and gaming. I’m a competitor, so you’re going to see me give my all for the Union at every eMLS event this year.”

The 26-year-old Ajayi, a lifelong soccer fan and an avid FIFA videogame player, was released by the Eagles last month after appearing in three games for them during the 2019 season.

Ajayi began his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins in 2015 and in his second season was selected to the Pro Bowl. He was traded to Philadelphia midway through the 2017 campaign and helped the team to their first Super Bowl title.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis