GREEN BAY (AP) - A former Green Bay Packers lineman whose teams won the first two Super Bowls will have at least one of his championship rings auctioned off to recover some of the $1.7 million the federal government says he owes in back taxes.
Fuzzy Thurston, 77, played for the Packers from 1959 to 1967. U.S. Marshals have seized his Super Bowl II ring, and authorities are trying to track down his other Super Bowl ring along with other sports jewelry and memorabilia.
The auction resulted from a court order this month calling for the sale of Thurston's rings from Super Bowls I and II, four other NFL championship rings, other sports memorabilia and a gold watch.
Heritage Auctions, based in Dallas, said the only items it has so far are Thurston's Super Bowl II ring, his 1960 Packers helmet and two 1960 footballs signed by members of the Packers and coach Vince Lombardi.
"We hope to reach out to fans who might wish to purchase the material to return it to Thurston," said Chris Ivy, the auction house's director of sports auctions.
The ring will be auctioned at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont, Ill., on Aug. 4. The helmet and the footballs will be available in the Fall Heritage Sports auction, which closes Nov. 11.
The Super Bowl ring is expected to fetch at least $20,000, although auction officials said spirited bidding could push the final price much higher.
Other rings from the first two Super Bowls have also been sold in recent years. Running back Paul Hornung's Super Bowl I ring fetched about $40,000 in 2002, while former offensive lineman Steve Wright sold his Super Bowl I ring last month for $73,409.
And a Super Bowl II ring belonging to running back Elijah Pitts once sold for about $30,000, although the diamonds in that ring had been replaced with faux gems.
Messages left at Thurston's Waupaca home weren't immediately returned. Green Bay lawyer Owen Monfils, who represented Thurston in some of his tax cases, told the Green Bay Press-Gazette he was certain Thurston didn't owe "nearly as much as the government claims."
The tax fight stems from Thurston's post-Packers days, when he and his business partners opened a chain of restaurants. According to a federal complaint, Thurston and the others withheld federal income taxes from their employees' salaries but failed to turn all the money over to the Internal Revenue Service.
The allegation eventually led to a protracted court fight in which Thurston was ordered to pay about $190,000 in 1984. With interest, the debt now stands at just over $1.7 million, according to court documents.
Prosecutors conducted depositions of Thurston's relatives and business associates to compile a list of his assets. The depositions revealed that his personal property included the championship rings, court documents said.