(CNN) — The cover of “Madden” has always held a special place in the world of video games and sports, but this year’s cover may stand out most of all.

John Madden — the late NFL coach, announcer and namesake of the mega-popular football video game series — will grace the Madden 2023 cover, EA Sports announced on Wednesday. It will be the first time that Madden has been on the cover since 2000.

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In fact, the former broadcaster will be on three covers that will “pay tribute to a different chapter in Coach Madden’s unforgettable life,” according to EA.

Madden, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 as coach of the Oakland Raiders, died at 85 in December, but his legacy lives on with his pseudonymous video game.

The series kicked off in 1988. Originally EA wanted Joe Montana to be the face of the franchise, but the former quarterback had prior commitments with Atari, according to ESPN.

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Madden eventually signed on and the coach and broadcaster immediately made an immediate impact on the game, demanding that the programmers revamp the game’s 7-on-7 format to 11-on-11, as it’s actually played.

In 1993, “Madden” took a giant leap forward when the NFL allowed the series to use actual team names and logos, which helped make it one of the most popular video games series of all time. EA has sold more than 130 million copies of “Madden,” generating at least $4 billion in total revenue.

It’s also become a cultural touchstone. NFL athletes clamor to be on the cover, although some have feel that the distinction came with a curse.

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