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By David K. Li

Former NFL receiver Rae Carruth strolled out of a North Carolina prison on Monday morning, ending more than 18 years behind bars for coordinating the murder of his pregnant girlfriend.

Carruth wore a white T-shirt, dark jacket and black knit cap as he emerged from Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina, about 70 miles south of Raleigh, at 8:02 a.m.

The one-time Carolina Panthers player smiled just before getting into a white Chevrolet Tahoe and was driven away.

Carruth, 44, didn’t speak to reporters as he walked out of prison on Monday and it wasn’t immediately where he was going.

Oakland Raiders v Carolina Panthers
Rae Carruth of the Carolina Panthers in 1997.Mitchell Layton / Getty Images file

He’ll have to regularly check in with authorities for the next nine months as a condition of his release. Carruth is allowed to move out of North Carolina as long as he remains in touch with parole officers.

If the former football player slips up, slips he could be sent back to prison for as long as six years, the remaining term on his conviction, a state corrections rep said.

Long-time family friend Tiffany Trice said loved ones of Carruth greeted him at prison gates on Monday, and that he doesn't want to do any interviews. He “just wants to move on," Trice told The News & Observer of Raleigh.

“Rae was picked up by family this morning, and that’s about all we’re going to say right now,” Trice added.

Carruth, a Sacramento, California, native who earned a barber's certificate while in prison, has previously said he'd like to return to the West Coast.

He was the Panthers first-round draft pick from the University of Colorado in 1997 and played three seasons for the team. And during that third season, Carruth’s girlfriend Cherica Adams was fatally shot four times while she was driving on Nov. 16, 1999.

At the time, Adams was eight months pregnant with Carruth’s then-unborn child. Prosecutors said Carruth orchestrated the hit because he wanted to avoid child support.

Doctors saved the life of their child son Chancellor Lee Adams, who was delivered by emergency cesarean section. The 18-year-old, who was deprived of oxygen in the minutes after his mom’s shooting, suffers from permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy.

The young man lives with his maternal grandmother Saundra Adams. The grandmother said Carruth's son wants to meet his dad, though they changed their mind about coming to the prison to greet him on Monday.

Adams said meeting Carruth would help her forgive him.

"I want to forgive him so that I can move on and enjoy the fruits of my labor and enjoy my life,” Adams told the paper. “Because if I’m sitting around in unforgiveness, it’s like me drinking poison and hoping he’s going to die.”

Scott Fowler
Chancellor Lee Adams with his grandmother Saundra Adams in 2017.Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images

Carruth was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder but was cleared of first-degree murder, sparing him a possible death penalty.

The shooter, Van Brett Watkins, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Watkins, who testified that Carruth paid him $6,000 for the murder, will be in prison until at least 2046.

Associated Press contributed.