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Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o leaves the field after his team's defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 BCS Championship game. Alabama won 42-14. / Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's inspirational story about playing in the weeks following his girlfriend's death and subsequent funeral in September turned out to be false after a Deadspin.com article revealed Te'o's girlfriend didn't exist.

In what has been described as an elaborate hoax, Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was an online persona created by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a friend of Te'o's and a pastor at a church in Palmdale, Calif.

In a statement issued by CAA, which represents Te'o, the Notre Dame star called himself a "victim" of "someone's sick joke." The response statement read:

"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," Te'o said. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

"In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."




Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Manti Te'o on girlfriend hoax story: 'victim' of 'sick joke'

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