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"Catfish' unconscious after fall

Hall of Famer Jim "Catfish" Hunter was unconscious and in critical condition in a neuro-intensive care unit after falling and hitting his head, a hospital spokesman said Tuesday.

Hunter, 53, who has amyothropic lateral sclerosis _ an irreversible deterioration of the muscles _ fell Sunday while negotiating cement steps outside his home in Hertford, a friend said.

"We just need everybody to keep him in your prayers," Hunter's wife, Helen, said Tuesday. "We need everybody's prayers right now, and we need them strong."

Hunter was hospitalized in Edenton and transferred early Monday to Pitt County Memorial Hospital, which serves the East Carolina University medical school.

Hunter was unconscious and on a ventilator, hospital spokesman Doug Boyd said. His condition was downgraded to critical from serious Monday, when he was awake, Boyd said.

Childhood friend Charles Woodard said Hunter fell around 5:30 p.m.

"He was outside seeing off a friend and was going back up the steps to his house when his feet got tangled," said Woodard, who owns Woodard's Pharmacy. "He just fell backward and hit his head."

Hunter, who won 224 games in 15 seasons, was diagnosed in September with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a neurological disease that interferes with the signals the brain sends to the muscles. Over time, the muscles degenerate. The cause is unknown, and there is no cure.

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