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Linebacker Urlacher back on Bears duty after mother's death

(Reuters) - Linebacker Brian Urlacher gave the Chicago Bears a welcome boost on Thursday when he returned to team duty three days after the death of his mother.

Urlacher's mother, Lavoyda Lenard, died unexpectedly at her home in Texas and the league veteran had been declared uncertain for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints while mourning with his family.

"It was good to get him back today," Bears coach Lovie Smith was quoted as saying by the team's website.

"Sometimes when you're going through tough times like he is right now, you want to get back with your support group, which is here with his team mates.

"Football is pretty important to him. I know he's excited about playing the game this Sunday."

Urlacher, a seven-time Pro Bowler, was voted National Football Conference defensive player of the week after recording a team-high 10 tackles in Chicago's season-opening 30-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

However, the death of his mother just one day later had left his availability for the Saints game in doubt and he was indefinitely excused from team duty.

"My first priority right now is to be with my family as we mourn her loss and make the arrangements to lay her to rest," Urlacher said in a statement on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 2000 and has established himself as one of the league's top defensive players.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Ian Ransom)