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Donald Trump on Jim Kelly's cancer fight: 'If he doesn't beat it, nobody was going to'

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One of Jim Kelly's most famous fans went out of the way today to share his admiration for the legendary quarterback.

"I hope everything turns out, but it's a tough one, as you know," Donald Trump told me from his office in Manhattan.

"Maybe it's not over. If he doesn't beat it, nobody was going to."

Kelly, 54, has cancer again. He is being treated at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Kelly's family has been staying in one of Trump's apartments.

Updates from Jill Kelly have painted a dire picture. She has said the cancer is "aggressive and starting to spread" and on Wednesday revealed a surgery was canceled because "the cancer is in areas that surgery cannot successfully eradicate."

Trump has participated in the Hunter's Hope Foundation, Kelly for Kids Foundation and the annual Jim Kelly Celebrity Classic golf tournament.

Their link goes back to the USFL, when Kelly played for the Houston Gamblers and Trump owned the New Jersey Generals. After the Gamblers folded in 1985 and merged with the Generals, Kelly appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a Generals uniform. But the league dissolved in 1986 before he could play for Trump.

"He's gone through so much already in his life," Trump said. "The way that he fought for his son was incredible. Nobody fought harder to save his son and to leave a legacy for his son than he did.

"Now he's going through something else that's so devastating."

Trump, the billionaire developer and entertainer estimated by Forbes to be worth $3.9 billion, marveled at Kelly's competitiveness.

"He was so tough to beat," Trump said. "Jim was such an unbelievable winner. He couldn't stand losing, but people don't realize what a great quarterback he was.

"He was as strong as the linebackers, but he had agility. When he threw the ball, nobody could do a thing to stop him."

Kelly's competitive spirit is being summoned again.

"Jim is a fighter," Trump said. "He's really tough. Nobody's tougher. And as great of a quarterback as he was, he's an even greater person."

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.