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Falcons release Dunn, sign Turner

ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons released running back Warrick Dunn on Monday, one day after signing free agent Michael Turner.

Last season, Dunn became the 22nd back in NFL history to rush for 10,000 yards. But his days in Atlanta were numbered after the Falcons doled out a six-year contract to Turner, reportedly for $34.5 million with approximately $15 million guaranteed.

The 33-year-old Dunn had three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Falcons, helping the team lead the NFL in rushing from 2004-06. He ran for a career-high 1,416 yards in 2005, earning his third Pro Bowl appearance.

But the 11-year veteran found little room to run after the Falcons fired coach Jim Mora and brought in Bobby Petrino. Dunn rushed for just 720 yards and averaged 3.2 yards per carry during a dismal 4-12 season, which was marred by Michael Vick's dogfighting case and Petrino's stunning resignation just 13 games into his debut season.

With a new coach and general manager, the Falcons decided to go younger at running back, signing Turner to team with 24-year-old Jerious Norwood.

'The legacy he leaves in Atlanta will be long-remembered and appreciated by his fellow players, fans and the community,' Atlanta owner Arthur Blank said. 'In my mind, Warrick will always be part of the Falcons family. At times like this our hearts are heavy, but the nature of the game sometimes requires making these kinds of decisions, however difficult they are for all of us.'

Dunn spent six seasons with the Falcons, finishing as the third-leading rusher in franchise history with 5,979 yards. He was nearly as well known for his charitable work, most notably the 'Home For The Holidays' program that helped single parents become first-time homeowners by making the down payment on new furnished homes.

In 2004, Dunn received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

'Warrick Dunn epitomizes all that is good about the National Football League and professional sports,' Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. 'What he has done on the field is remarkable. What he has done off the field with his well publicized Homes For the Holidays program has changed and impacted lives.'

Dunn's final season with the Falcons was largely forgettable. Vick's legal troubles robbed the team of one of its best running threats, and the offensive line struggled to adapt to Petrino's blocking scheme.

But Dunn did join an exclusive club in Week 12, reaching 10,000 yards in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. For his career, he has 2,484 carries for 10,179 yards and 47 touchdowns, along with 463 receptions for 4,009 yards and 15 TDs.

'Warrick has performed at an extremely high level for a very long time,' Falcons coach Mike Smith. 'Making moves like this one are never easy. It's tough. But we have to do what we feel is in the best long term interest of the Falcons.'

Dunn spent his first five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, twice rushing for 1,000 yards and earning two trips to the Pro Bowl. He was drafted 12th overall out of Florida State in 1997.