Chargers release top running back Tomlinson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - LaDainian Tomlinson, who became one of the NFL's best running backs during a nine-year career, has been released by the San Diego Chargers, the team said on Monday.

The 30-year-old, who is San Diego's all-time rusher, had expected the move for some time since he was due a $2 million roster bonus on March 5. He would have earned $5 million in total salary this year.

"This is a part of the business that I hate," Chargers president Dean Spanos said on the team's website (www.chargers.com). "Change involving great players is never easy. I respect LT as much or more than any player I've ever known.

"His legacy as one of the greatest running backs the game has ever seen will be as a Charger," Spanos added.

Tomlinson said earlier this month he hoped to play somewhere in the NFL during the 2010 season.

He owns or shares 28 San Diego records, including career rushing yards and touchdowns.

But he had the least productive season of his career last season, rushing for 730 yards on 223 carries.

He had restructured the final three years of his contract before last season, taking a paycut. But he said earlier this month he would not do that again.

"I'm not coming back," he told the San Diego Union Tribune. "I've accepted it."

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina)