Longtime ESPN anchor Stuart Scott died Sunday morning at the age of 49, the network announced.

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He was diagnosed with the disease after feeling sick while covering a Dolphins-Steelers “Monday Night Football” game in November, 2007. Scott entered a Pittsburgh hospital for an emergency appendectomy. During the surgery a malignancy was found. Scott was diagnosed with cancer of the abdomen.

Stuart was born in Chicago, but he, along with two sisters and a brother, spent his formative years in North Carolina, where their father was a postal inspector who always had time to play after work. Stuart went to R.J. Reynolds High in Winston-Salem and then the University of North Carolina, where he played wide receiver and defensive back on the club football team, joined Alpha Phi Alpha and worked at the student radio station, WXYC. After graduating in 1987 with a degree in speech communication, Stuart was hired by WPDE-TV in Florence, S.C. He says that’s where he first came up with the pillow metaphor. “People say I stole it from a movie,” he told an interviewer in 1998, “but I first thought of that and said it on my first job … I just liked it.”

He began undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The cancer went into remission. But in 2011, Scott went public saying the cancer had come back. In early 2012 it was in remission again but returned in January 2013.

Despite the circumstances, Scott not only continued working when possible, but also fought cancer with rigorous workouts, which included mixed martial arts and cross training. He was determined to lead a normal life during his abnormal, frightening ordeal.

“I never ask what stage (cancer) I’m in,” Scott told the New York Times. “I haven’t wanted to know. It won’t change anything to me. All I know is that it would cause more worry and a higher degree of freakout. Stage 1, 2 or 8, it doesn’t matter. I’m trying to fight it the best I can.”