Barack Obama mourns death of Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney

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Former President Barack Obama mourned the passing of longtime Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney on Thursday.

Obama released a statement on Thursday night after the team announced Rooney's passing, noting the former ambassador was "a great friend" of his.

"But more importantly, he was a great friend to the people of Pittsburgh, a model citizen, and someone who represented the United States with dignity and grace on the world stage," Obama said.

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Dan Rooney through the years
FILE PHOTO - Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney celebrates after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL's AFC Championship football game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 18, 2009. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan/File Photo
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney (C) is presented with an American flag from members of the 10th Special Forces Captain Edgar Yu (L) and Staff Sergeant Russ Nehmer before the NFL football game between the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 6, 2011. REUTERS/David DeNoma(UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL MILITARY)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (R) shakes hands with Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney on the sideline before the NFL's Super Bowl XLV football game in Arlington, Texas, February 6, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney waves after his team beat the Arizona Cardinals to win the NFL's Super Bowl XLIII football game in Tampa, Florida, February 1, 2009. REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme (UNITED STATES)
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney listens as US Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks to the Alliance for American Manufacturing on the challenges facing manufacturers in the U.S. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania April 14, 2008. Rooney endorsed Obama after the event. REUTERS/Jason Cohn (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
(L-R) Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, retiring commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson pose after Goodell was named the league's new chief executive in Northbrook, Illinois, August 8, 2006. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
Bill Cowher walks out of a news conference with Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney (L) and President Art Rooney II (R) after announcing his resignation as the team's head coach in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania January 5, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Cohn (UNITED STATES)
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy as former Super Bowl MVP Bart Starr (L) watches after the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in the NFL's Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Michigan February 5, 2006. REUTERS/Shaun Best
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney (L) talks with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue before the start of the AFC Championship game in Denver January 22, 2006. The Steelers are playing the Denver Broncos for the right to go to Super Bowl XL. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cower (R) reacts as owner Dan Rooney holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in the NFL's Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Michigan February 5, 2006. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (L) celebrates with Steelers owner Dan Rooney after the Steelers defeated the New York Jets to win the NFL AFC Championship football game in Pittsburgh, January 23, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
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Obama named Rooney the U.S. ambassador to Ireland in 2009, and said he knew Rooney would do a "wonderful job" in that role.

"But naturally, he surpassed my high expectations, and I know the people of Ireland think fondly of him today," Obama said in his statement. "And I know the people of Pittsburgh, who loved him not only for the Super Bowl championships he brought as the owner of the Steelers, but for his generosity of spirit, mourn his passing today."

The 44th American president added that he and former first lady Michelle Obama offered their condolences to Rooney's family, who he referred to as "some of the most gracious and thoughtful people we know -- even as we celebrate the life of Dan Rooney: a championship-caliber good man."

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