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Lewis is panel's overwhelming favorite

His toughness and passion for the game have impressed NFL legends

Updated: January 28, 2012, 1:17 PM ET
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com

Ray Lewis is more than the best defensive player of his generation. The Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker is the toughest and the meanest. He is both the most feared and the most respected.

Lewis' passion for pain -- to inflict it as well as absorb it -- has defined his unrelenting will. He's exuded this with every tackle, sack and forced fumble on game days that have spanned three decades. And in the eyes of the game's previous greats, Lewis would dominate running backs and harass quarterbacks ...

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