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One of Canada's first true soccer superstars, Brian (Budgie) Budd gained more fame and notoriety away from the soccer field than on the field at a time when the beautiful game was just starting to come of age in North America.

Budd died suddenly on Wednesday at the age of 56. He was found collapsed at his Toronto home. The cause of death was not immediately known.

The Toronto-born, raised-in-Vancouver Budd was best known for his remarkable athleticism he displayed in outshining much higher-profile professional athletes in winning the ABC Sports World Superstars contests against NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and Olympic stars three consecutive times between 1977 to 1979.

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His victories in the television series provoked the network broadcaster to pass a rule - known as The Budd rule - barring anyone from participating in the event after they had won it three times.

During the 1978 broadcast he bettered United States Olympic pole vaulting champion Bob Seagren and Cleveland Browns star Greg Pruitt in the contest.

Budd, always known for his humour and levity, marvelled at Pruitt's blazing speed during an interview later that year during with the CBC's Peter Gzowski.

"It was like running against a race car," recalled Budd. "I just rode along on the draft of wind behind him, hopefully he just dragged me along. I'm not saying he was quick but all I could see is the back of his runners when he was running because he was so quick."

Budd, a striker and target man with Canada's World Cup soccer team, scored two goals in seven appearances for Canada but also had a lengthy career in the defunct North American Soccer League.

He said his entry into the game was more by chance than design after a touring all-star team British Columbia had heard about his ability as a goal scorer.

Budd recalled that because of injury, the traveling roster of the team had been reduced to 12 players so they invited him to play a few games with them on Vancouver Island where he scored five goals in three games.

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He won a CIS Championship with the UBC Thunderbirds in 1974 before moving on to spend seven seasons in the NASL with Vancouver, Toronto, Houston, and Colorado as well as playing indoor soccer with Cleveland and Baltimore in the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Budd was also an ambassador for the game and his warmth and sense of humour enabled him to excel in sales, marketing and broadcasting jobs his career in athletics was long over.

One of his first post-soccer jobs was as public affairs director for the Toronto Blizzard and later he moved into sales and took up a job as a sales management representative for the Labatt brewing company after the demise of the NASL.

Following his retirement from the game, Budd also became a regular colour commentator for Toronto Blizzard radio and television broadcasts in the early 1980s.

Until his death on Wednesday, he was a regular analyst for The Score on its English Premiership and Major League Soccer broadcasts.

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