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John Madden returning to 'Madden' cover

Football's greatest evangelist will grace the cover of the video game that bears his name one final time.

John Madden long ago vacated the cover of the revolutionary video game that still bares his name, but he'll be back one final time. EA Sports announced Wednesday that the namesake will once again grace the cover of EA Sports Madden 23, a memoriam to, arguably, the most important figure in football history, who died at age 85 on Dec. 28.

The announcement came on the 34th anniversary of the launch of the first edition of the game, John Madden Football, on June 1, 1988.

Madden graced the first 11 covers before he was replaced by Eddie George for Madden NFL 2001

Madden 3
Madden 2
Madden 1

In addition to appearing on three separate covers, Madden will return to the game itself, too.

From EA:

When Madden NFL 23 launches later this summer, the first interactive experience will feature two versions of Coach Madden leading opposing teams of “All Madden” athletes facing off in the 1970s Oakland Coliseum. In addition, the unforgettable voice of Coach Madden returns during the game in remastered audio clips that callback to his legendary days as a broadcaster. 

Beyond the game, EA is donating $2.5 million toward nonprofit organizations focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math education and the United Negro College Fund. The company also officially dedicated John Madden Field at its Redwood City, Calif., headquarters, a 50-yard field that will host NFL Flag games. 

EA will also reveal additional tributes to Madden "in the coming weeks." 

In addition to his work as a Hall of Fame, Super Bowl-winning coach and single-handedly revolutionizing how football was shown and discussed on television, Madden's greatest work as the game's greatest evangelist came through the video game. Madden has introduced football to millions of Generation X, Millennial and Generation Z children and deepened the football-watching public's appreciation and understanding of the game's schematics. In 2018, the Madden franchise crossed 130 million sales.