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Super Bowl winner dies after road rage incident

Smith and wife Racquel in 2001. Photo: Getty/Supplied

Smith and wife Racquel in 2001. Photo: Getty/Supplied

A former NFL player and Super Bowl winner has been fatally shot in a horrifying road rage incident by a man who likely idolised him.

Police have charged 28-year-old Cardell Hayes with the murder of ex-New Orleans Saints defensive line Will Smith after a verbal altercation escalated at the weekend.

Smith was driving his Mercedes Benz late Saturday night (US time) when Hayes – an NFL wannabe – allegedly rear-ended his car with a Hummer H2 truck.

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This caused Smith to hit another car in front of him, making it a three-car pile-up.

cardell hayes

Cardell Hayes has been charged with the murder. Photo: Supplied

It is alleged that both men got out of their cars, and after a heated exchange Hayes shot Smith multiple times.

The former defensive end’s wife Racquel was also shot twice in the leg, but was taken to hospital and survived. Her husband was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to New Orleans news site Nola.com, witnesses recalled hearing “six to eight shots” fired at the scene in the Lower Gardens District of New Orleans.

Visiting tourist Janis Baehr told the website she had heard the gunshots and went to the aid of Ms Smith, giving her ice chips for her leg wound.

“It was a crash, boom, bang,” she said.

Other witnesses told the site they had taken shelter when they heard gunshots. No others were injured at the scene.

Police have charged Hayes with second degree murder and are investigating whether he had a motive or whether the tragic incident can be blamed entirely on road rage.

will smith racquel smith

Smith and wife Racquel in 2001. Photo: Getty/Supplied

A tragic family history

What can be gleaned from the incident is that tragedy and trouble with the law runs in the Hayes family.

Hayes’ father Anthony Hayes was fatally shot by police officers in 2005 after getting into a verbal altercation with a service station cashier.

According to a Daily Beast article, witnesses recalled seeing Hayes leave the shop with a small knife. Once outside, six police officers surrounded Hayes (whose family has since said he suffered from mental illness) and ordered him to drop the knife.

When Hayes charged at police, they shot him nine times, killing him. According to the article, the combination of his father’s death and Hurricane Katrina derailed Cardell Hayes’ dreams of being a defensive line for his chosen team, the New Orleans Saints – a role Will Smith filled for a decade.

A second connection between the pair emerged when a photo taken just before the shooting revealed Smith had just had dinner with retired police officer Billy Ceravolo – the officer Hayes’ father had charged right before he was shot.

Ceravolo was named in a lawsuit brought by Hayes’ children following their father’s death.

It is not yet known whether Hayes was aware of these connections when he allegedly shot Will and Racquel Smith.

Smith leaves behind two sons and a daughter.

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