After returning to Halas Hall for the first time in years Tuesday, Mike Ditka admitted his relationship with the franchise might have been strained but he said he has never wavered in his support of the Chicago Bears.
"There was a perception for a long time -- it wasn't perpetrated by me -- that I was not a Bears fan. Nobody in the world has more of a right to be a Bears fan more than me," Ditka said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I don't care if I was fired or traded, I was drafted by Mr. (George) Halas, I played for him, the last two championships (the Bears) won (in 1963 and 1985) I was a player and a coach on them. Is that the best thing in the world? No, but I'm just saying nobody has more of a right to be a fan than me.
"I think it got out of whack there for about 10 years in a row there where there was some animosity on somebody's part. I can honestly say it wasn't my part. No one likes to be fired. That's a fact. Did I deserve to be fired? Hell yes I did. We weren't doing the job. It's simple. It's not a complicated thing. I never fretted about that because I had my day in the sun. I knew as a coach that we were going to win. And I knew we were going to win because we had the right kind of players on that football team to win."
Ditka's 11-year run as coach of the Bears ended after the 1992 season when the Bears fired him following a 5-11 season. That ended a Bears career that began as a Hall of Fame tight end and eventually led to him coaching the Bears to their only Super Bowl win during the 1985 season.
The Bears recently announced that Ditka's No. 89 would be the last jersey to be retired in the forseeable future. The Bears have retired the most numbers of any team in the NFL.
The Bears will retire Ditka's number during a ceremony at a Dec. 9 game against one of Ditka's former teams, the Dallas Cowboys, at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.
"It's a great honor. It's an unbelievable honor. To me it wasn't necessary because you can't change the fact that I played the game for the Bears," said Ditka, who is now an ESPN analyst. "I know I left and I played for the Eagles and I played for the Cowboys but I played the game for the Bears. And I played for the guy (Halas) who started the National Football League. The joy I have out of my career with the Bears and how much it meant to me ... retiring the number is a tremendous honor, but it's not significant in what I think of my achievements with the Bears. All of it was too good, and even the bad days were too good."