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The founder of the Little Caesars pizza empire paid Rosa Parks' rent for years

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UPDATE 12: 19 p.m. Feb. 16:

After Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch died at the age of 87, an article by Sports Business Journal resurfaced showing he had been paying civil rights icon Rosa Parks' rent.

Parks was robbed and assaulted in 1994. Judge Damon Keith said Ilitch took part in getting Parks a new home and said he would pay her rent as long as necessary. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 92.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The brains behind the Little Caesars pizza empire died at the age of 87 on Friday in a Detroit hospital. Besides building a billion dollar franchise, Mike Ilitch owned the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, winning praise for keeping the professional teams in urban areas while others moved to more suburban stadiums, the Washington Post reported.

The family's spokesman confirmed his passing, but released no other details.

Christopher Ilitch, who will become the next head of Little Caesars, described his father as "a kind-hearted family man, a big-idea businessman, a hands-on leader and a devoted philanthropist who created opportunity and pride for everyone around him," in a Saturday statement.

In 1959, Mike Ilitch and his wife, Marian, launched Little Caesars, later known for its "Pizza! Pizza!" TV commercials. The company soon developed into one of the world's largest carryout pizza franchises that also inspired several spinoff companies. The company employs roughly 23,000 people, and, last year, its revenues hit $3.4 billion.

1985 Little Caesars Pizza! Pizza! commercial.

WATCH |  A commercial from 1985

Besides managing Little Caesars, Ilitch had a knack for sports. In 1982, he reportedly paid $8 million for the struggling Red Wings--once a National Hockey League powerhouse. Under his ownership, the Wings revived itself to prestigious standing, winning the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998, 2992, and 2008.

Ilitch was inducted into the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, and subsequently into the US Hockey Hall of Fame and Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

The Philadelphia Flyers paid tribute to Ilitch with a moment of silence on Saturday.

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