Darryl Stingley, a former New England Patriots receiver who was paralyzed after a hard hit during an NFL exhibition game nearly 30 years ago, has died. He was 55.

Stingley was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital early Thursday after he was found unresponsive in his home, according to Tony Brucci, an investigator with the Cook County medical examiner's office.

An autopsy was scheduled. The cause of death was not immediately available.

Stingley played football until August 12, 1978, when the 26-year-old receiver went up for a pass during and was hit from behind by Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum. The hit broke Stingley's neck and left him a quadriplegic for life.

Stingley was born and raised in Chicago. He was a star running back at John Marshall High School. He attended Purdue on a football scholarship.

In 1973, he was a first-round draft pick of the Patriots.

"We're deeply saddened by news of Darryl Stingley's death, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Stingley family at this time," Patriots spokesman Stacey James said.