US actor Carl Weathers has died at the age of 76, according to his family.
Weathers, who starred as Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky films, "died peacefully in his sleep", according to a statement released by his family.
His other film credits include Predator, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore.
Weathers, who began his career as an NFL linebacker, "was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life", his family's statement added.
"Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized worldwide and across generations," said the family.
"He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend."
The athlete-turned-actor was comfortable starring in action and comedy, in appearances ranging from Arrested Development to The Mandalorian, where he featured in all three seasons of the Disney+ hit series.
His one-time co-star, the former California governor and superhero action star Schwarzenegger, praised Weathers on X, formerly Twitter: "Carl Weathers will always be a legend. An extraordinary athlete, a fantastic actor, and a great person.
"We couldn't have made Predator without him. And we certainly wouldn't have had such a wonderful time making it."
Born in 1948 in New Orleans, Weathers began his career playing football at San Diego State University, where he studied theatre acting, before joining the Oakland Raiders in 1970.
During his over 50-year career in Hollywood, he appeared in more than 75 films and TV shows, according to Deadline.
In 2021 he was nominated for an Emmy for his role in The Mandalorian. He directed two episodes of the Star Wars series, as well as episodes of Law & Order and Chicago Med.
He was also known for Action Jackson, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Eight Crazy Nights, Little Nicky and the Toy Story franchise.
Adam Sandler paid tribute on social media, writing: "A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete."
"What a guy!! Everyone loved him," he wrote. "Love to his entire family and Carl will always be known as a true legend."
Breaking Bad actor Giancarlo Esposito said: "I will sorely miss my dear friend & brother Carl Weathers. You are truly one of the most wonderful human beings I have had the honor & pleasure of spending time with!"
In a video posted on Instagram, fellow Rocky star Sylvester Stallone said Weathers was "an integral part of my life, my success... I give him incredible credit".
"I never could have accomplished what we did with Rocky without him. He was absolutely brilliant," Stallone added in an emotional tribute.
In an interview with the Detroit News last year, Weathers called himself a "lucky guy".
There are so many people that came before me who I admired and whose success I wanted to emulate, and just kind of hit the benchmarks they hit in terms of success, who created a pathway that I've been able to walk and find success as a result," he said. "And hopefully I can inspire someone else to do good work as well."
"I guess I'm just a lucky guy."