BATAVIA, N.Y. (AP) — Dan Marino left his Dolphins' colors behind in exchange for a Buffalo Bills' blue T-shirt with the words "Kelly Tough" printed on the front.
Anything for a dear friend.
"Everybody loves Jim. I love him too, man," Marino said Monday, before the start of Jim Kelly's annual charitable golf tournament. "I just can't wait for him to get better and get back out here with us."
Marino, the former Dolphins star quarterback and Kelly's longtime rival, was on hand in what was one of the largest turnouts of the tournament's 28-year history. The only one missing was Kelly, himself.
Too weak to attend, the Bills' Hall of Fame quarterback is recovering in a hospital in Buffalo less than a week after completing radiation and chemotherapy sessions to treat sinus cancer, which spread from his jaw.
Though absent, Kelly's presence resonated on the golf course about a half-hour outside of Buffalo.
"He's here in spirit," said former Bills general manager Bill Polian, who joined Marino in visiting Kelly on Sunday. "And everybody is here to not only aid his charity endeavors, but to show their support for him and our affection for him."
Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas had to stop in mid-sentence to choke back his emotions. Thomas was nearly overwhelmed while attempting to assess the impact Kelly has made beyond football, through his Kelly for Kids Foundation, which has distributed more than $5 million to charities across the region.
"He's truly missed by not being here, but we all understand the circumstances," Thomas said. "To me, this turnout just shows the power of how much people care about Jim, and what he means."
Dan Kelly provided an update on his brother's recovery, saying the initial prognosis looks promising.
The pain Kelly was experiencing has subsided, though he will spend about another week in the hospital. Kelly will then need between six and eight weeks of rest before having tests to determine whether the cancer cells have been eliminated.
"We're so excited to know that it's over and he can now start the healing process," Dan Kelly said. "We're hoping it's on an upward trend from here on out."
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