Bernie Casey, the former San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver who went on to even greater fame as an actor in film and television, died Tuesday in Los Angeles at the age of 78.

“Sadly, Bernie passed away yesterday … after a brief illness. He passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones,” said publicist Erin Connor.

In addition to his acting and athletic career, Casey was also an accomplished painter and poet.

Casey played eight season in the NFL from 1961-68, the first six with the 49ers and the last two with the Rams. He once told an NFL Films crew doing a profile on him that he only played football for the money, and would prefer to make a living with his art.

He made good on his words by retiring after the 1968 season. Turning to acting, Casey appeared in several TV movies and “Blaxploitation” films in the 1970s. His notable 1980s credits include “Revenge of the Nerds” and “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.”

More recently, he served as chairman of the board of the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.