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UPDATE: Beloved Cherokee High Schooll supporter Jimmy Payne died early Thursday evening, according to Riverton Community Church in Cherokee.
The church said this: "Jimmy Payne a legend for every child in Cherokee and every school who has played Cherokee in any sport for 50 years. Jimmy was always a smile and a slap on the head when you needed them!"
Payne was admitted to the hospital last month after choking on a hot dog at a basketball game.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
The Cherokee community is coming together after a freak accident landed one of its biggest supporters in the hospital.
Lymos McDonald, the assistant principal at Cherokee High School, told WAAY 31 when you think of Cherokee, you think of a man named Jimmy Payne. Payne is a huge supporter of the school. He goes to every game for every sport and has done this for decades.
McDonald said many students view him as a grandpa or uncle. Students made signs to hang in the gym that say "Praying for Jimmy Payne," with Jimmy's photo in the middle.
On Tuesday, Payne was at Tharptown High School for a basketball game against Cherokee High School when he started choking on a hot dog.
McDonald said school staff members from Cherokee and the opposing team ran over to help him. The mayor of Cherokee was the first to Payne and he started doing the Heimlich maneuver and CPR. Payne was rushed to Russellville Hospital and then transported to the North Alabama Medical Center in Florence.
McDonald said Payne is so well known in the sports community as being a huge supporter that there have been lines of people at the hospital to see him.
"We have coaches that are coming from Mississippi, Tennessee and others in this area that know him. To visit him is a long line to get in, because he has so many people that he's affected and so many lives he's touched," said McDonald.
McDonald said Payne is on a ventilator at the hospital in Florence. The student body sends him a message saying they love him and hope he gets better.