In 10 seasons playing pro football, Lito Sheppard cracked a rib, broke both thumbs, sprained his knees, pulled a quad, and dislocated eight fingers. The Eagles cornerback took such hard hits that he blacked out.

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He’s retired now, but the pain and anxiety linger. His antidote has been marijuana, something to dull the aches without fear of getting hooked, like so many ex-athletes, on the prescription painkillers they used during their careers.

“We make so many sacrifices, and we put our body and mind through so much that you look for holistic ways to alleviate some of those issues,” Sheppard said Tuesday. “This is one that I found that helps me.”

Sheppard, 36, is throwing more than just vocal support behind his source of self-medication. He’s one of a crop of former football players and athletes — some prominent — making a play in Pennsylvania’s burgeoning medical-marijuana industry.  Last week, he and partners in a new venture applied to the state for the right to open a cannabis-growing facility in Chester, Delaware County.

He joined a list that already included Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Franco Harris, seeking a permit for a cultivation operation in Braddock, Pa; former Baltimore Ravens lineman Eugene Monroe, a member of an Illinois-based distribution group and a research donor at the University of Pennsylvania; and ex-Denver Broncos receiver Charlie Adams, who, with former Flyers enforcer Riley Cote, wants to grow medical marijuana at a Pottstown site.

For the retired players, it’s not just a business opportunity, but affirmation of what they learned in years smashing and crashing into and on top of 300-pound opponents.

“It’s a healing venture in both realms. That’s what we hope will happen,” said

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