Tiger Woods Won't Face Criminal Charges for Crash ... Sheriff Says

Breaking News

The Sheriff overseeing the investigation into the Tiger Woods car crash says he will NOT face criminal charges over the incident -- calling it a pure "accident."

Sheriff Alex Villanueva took questions from the media on Wednesday -- and when asked directly if Tiger would face a reckless driving charge, he said, "No."

"This is purely an accident," Sheriff Villanueva said ... explaining there is no evidence showing the 45-year-old was under the influence of any substance when he drove his vehicle off a cliff in Palos Verdes, CA on Tuesday.

NO CHARGES
LA County Sheriff's Department

There is a chance Woods could be hit with an infraction if investigators determine he was using his cell phone when he lost control -- or was otherwise distracted behind the wheel -- but it's a big difference from being charged with a crime.

"We do not contemplate any charges whatsoever in this crash," Villanueva added ... "This remains an accident. An accident is not a crime."

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SCENE OF THE WRECKAGE
Fox 11

As we previously reported, Deputy Carlos Gonzalez -- the first person to respond to the crash scene -- says Tiger seemed lucid and sober in the moments after the accident.

Officials say they did not take a blood sample from Tiger to test for substances because there were no obvious signs of impairment.

Sheriff Villanueva also confirmed investigators have still not retrieved a "black box" from the SUV Tiger was driving -- a device that could show investigators how fast the vehicle was traveling at the time of the incident.

Tiger was arrested for DUI in Florida in 2017 after officers found him passed out behind the wheel of his car. Woods later said his condition was an unintended result from taking prescription medication.

Ahmaud Arbery Mom Blasts 2:23 Foundation ... Org Says It Has Dad's Support

Exclusive

Ahmaud Arbery's mother claims an organization continues to raise funds in his name despite agreeing months ago to stop, but the org claims it's doing good work ... and Ahmaud's father is behind it.

Wanda Cooper tells TMZ ... the 2:23 Foundation is using her son's name and likeness without permission, and says the org hauled in a massive amount of cash Tuesday -- $226,000 on the anniversary of his death -- from donations.

She says 2:23 is not affiliated with her, and claims that's confusing the public. Meanwhile, she says the official Ahmaud Arbery Foundation -- which Wanda started -- is struggling to get donations.

Wanda's repped by civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, and he's now warning 2:23 that the family is going to escalate litigation, claiming the org is violating an agreement it struck with Wanda in September to stop doing what it's doing. We broke the story back then that Wanda was upset people were allegedly profiting off Ahmaud's tragedy.

Here's the flip side -- the 2:23 Foundation has responded to her claims, insisting it has the support of the majority of Ahmaud's family ... including his father, Marcus Arbery Sr.

2:23 claims it's also been on Wanda's side from the get-go, adding ... "Our team has gone to great lengths to ensure she was aware of the work we were doing to help pursue justice for Ahmaud."

The org also claims it helped raise $2 million for Wanda, and says the contentious "I RUN WITH MAUD" trademark it filed was done on the family's behalf.

As for the September agreement with Wanda it's allegedly violated ... we've reached out to 2:23, but haven't heard back yet.

First Lady Jill Biden Hang in There, Kelly ... My Divorce Was for the Best!!!

Dr. Jill Biden's offering motherly words of wisdom to Kelly Clarkson -- who's going through a divorce -- and there's personal experience behind her message.

The First Lady sat down with Kelly for her first big solo TV interview since Inauguration Day, and was very candid in describing how she believes everything happens for a reason ... including her own divorce.

She says without going through that, she never would have met President Biden and formed her beautiful family, so she's telling Kelly to hang in there and promises her ... time heals all wounds.

It might sound a little cliche, but Kelly really seems to take it to heart.

As we reported ... Clarkson filed for divorce from her husband of nearly 7 years, Brandon Blackstock, back in June and later won primary custody of their kids.

However, he's seeking substantial spousal and child support, and in December she started another legal battle ... by claiming he defrauded her out of millions. Obviously, there's still a lot to be worked out.

In the meantime, Kelly's got the scoop on what Dr. Biden wants to do for some fun as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is finally over ... and she's totally down to join her.

For more of the interview ... check out "The Kelly Clarkson Show: White House Edition with the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden" on Thursday.

Tiger Woods Rod, Screws and Pins to Repair Badly Damaged Leg ... Doctors Confirm

Breaking News

Tiger Woods suffered comminuted open fractures in his right leg -- meaning the bone was shattered in at least 2 places and broke through the skin -- so doctors used a rod to stabilize it, according to Tiger's medical team.

Dr. Anish Mahajan -- Chief Medical Officer at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center -- just issued a statement describing Tiger's injuries in detail ... and it sounds bad. Note, he only mentions injuries to ONE of Tiger's legs, not both.

"Mr. Woods suffered significant orthopedic injuries to his right lower extremity that were treated during emergency surgery by Orthopaedic trauma specialists," Mahajan says.

"Comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula bones were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia."

A comminuted fracture is when the bone breaks into several pieces, according to WebMD. And, the fact it's "open" means the bones broke through the skin.

Dr. Mahajan says Tiger also suffered serious injuries to his right ankle and foot -- which were stabilized "with a combination of screws and pins."

He continued, "Trauma to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling."

Tiger is currently "awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room," according to Tiger's PR team ... which also added a statement from his camp.

"Thank you to the wonderful doctors and hospital staff at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department, and the Fire Department. Your support and assistance has been outstanding."

What's interesting ... the doctors make no mention of damage to Tiger's left leg, which is a good thing considering there are reports he suffered major injuries to BOTH legs.

Bruce Springsteen Pleads Guilty to Boozing ... DWI, Reckless Driving Charges Dropped

Breaking News

Bruce Springsteen's criminal record won't show any guilty plea to driving under the influence -- because the Boss just struck a deal with prosecutors.

Springsteen pled guilty to only one misdemeanor count of consuming alcohol in a closed area. He admitted to drinking at the Gateway National Recreational Area -- a federal property, where booze is forbidden.

The other charges he was facing -- DWI and reckless driving -- were dismissed by prosecutors ... who said, in court, his BAC was well below the legal limit at .02, so they felt they couldn't prove their case.

Bruce's penalty was a $500 fine and an extra $40 for court fees -- which he said he could take care of immediately.

His attorney, Mitchell Ansell, says ... "Mr. Springsteen is pleased with the outcome of today’s court appearance." He adds, "Mr. Springsteen, who has no previous criminal record of any kind, voluntarily plead guilty to a violation of consuming an alcoholic beverage in a closed area, agreeing to a fine of $500. We want to thank the Court and will have no further comment at this time."

TMZ broke the story ... the Boss was arrested for DWI back in November at Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook, NJ, but it came to light when we reported it earlier this month. He was cited for DWI, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area.

According to the police report, obtained by TMZ, Bruce was glassy-eyed, swaying and reeked of booze when he was arrested. Remember, police said an officer watched Bruce take a shot of Patron Tequila before riding away on his motorcycle. For what it's worth, cops say Bruce was cooperative throughout the arrest.

Dr. Dre Let's Have a Judge Decide Prenup's Validity ... Now

Exclusive

Dr. Dre and his estranged wife, Nicole, have several areas of conflict in their contentious divorce, but the biggest stumbling block is the validity of their prenup, and Dre wants a trial ... STAT.

Dre's lawyer, disso queen Laura Wasser, has filed legal docs asking for a 5-day trial over the prenup. As we reported, Nicole signed the prenup before they married but claims Dre came to her shortly after the nuptials, saying he regretted "pressuring" her to sign it and tore up multiple copies right in front of her. Dre denies he pressured her and denies he ever tore it up ... and points to a clause in the document that says altering it must be in writing.

Dre has asked to remove the case from the court system and have a private judge handle the divorce case -- away from the public spotlight -- but Nicole has rejected that, favoring instead a traditional court trial. If it stays in the courts, it may take a very long to for a judge to hear the case ... because the pandemic has caused enormous trial delays.

To be continued.

Big Show Pro Wrestling Legend Signs with AEW ... Ends 22-Year Run with WWE

Breaking News

GIGANTIC news in pro wrestling -- the man known as "Big Show" has officially signed a long-term contract with AEW ... ending his 22-year run with WWE.

Big Show -- real name Paul Wight -- will have an "extensive role" with AEW as a wrestler and a commentator on AEW’s newest show, "AEW Dark: Elevation."

The 7-foot tall, 49-year-old superstar says he's excited to begin the next chapter of his storied career.

"It’s been amazing to watch what AEW has built in just a couple of years," Wight said in a statement.

"AEW Dark is an incredible platform to hone the skills of up-and-coming wrestlers, but I also love that established AEW talent can build out their personalities and showcase themselves in new ways on Dark. It’s no exaggeration when they say that AEW is boundless."

Wight signed with WCW back in 1995, using the ring name, "The Giant" -- where he won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship twice.

Wight moved to WWE in 1999 where his popularity exploded -- taking on opponents like Brock Lesnar, The Rock, Kurt Angle ... basically the biggest names in the biz.

Remember when he took on Floyd Mayweather at Wrestlemania 24 in 2008?

During his 2 decades with WWE, he won just about every single belt and championship available ... he's a surefire Hall of Famer.

Wight has long talked about wrestling fellow big man Shaquille O'Neal -- and with Shaq scheduled to appear in an AEW match next week, we could FINALLY get the huge match we've been waiting for!

Dwyane Wade Had 'Great Day' with Tiger Day Before Crash ... We Talked About Our Kids

Breaking News

Dwyane Wade is opening up about the time he spent with Tiger Woods just ONE DAY before the car accident -- explaining how they bonded while talking about their families.

D-Wade had connected with Tiger in L.A. on Monday to shoot some segments for Golf Digest where Tiger essentially served as an on-the-course golf instructor for Wade.

They even made a funny video playfully mocking Wade's skills on the links. Fun stuff.

DAY BEFORE THE CRASH
GOLFIN' WITH THE G.O.A.T.

But, less than 24 hours later, Woods wrecked his SUV and suffered horrible injuries to his leg -- and there's real concern he may never play golf again.

Wade appeared on "Inside the NBA" on Tuesday to discuss his day with Tiger -- and described him as a friendly, nice guy who was acting completely normal on the links.

"He taught me a few things," Wade said ... "Hopefully it will translate!"

"But to be out there with the G.O.A.T in my eyes in that sport and being able to talk to him about Sam and Charley [Tiger's kids] and his father ... It was a great day."

Wade continued, "I woke up to the news [after taking a nap on Tuesday]. Just like everybody out there, my thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones because we all were shaken and shook at that moment, not knowing what happened with Tiger."

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

"Just my prayers go out to him and hopefully a speedy recovery for him and hopefully he gets a chance to get back to doing what he loves to do and that's playing the game of golf and I'm just thankful that he took the time to be able to teach me a few things about the game yesterday."

Tiger Woods Crash Zone Known for Out of Control Vehicles ... Had a Runaway Ramp

Exclusive

The area where Tiger Woods crashed is known as a dangerous spot, where other vehicles have lost control in the past ... and actually features a safety net to help prevent exactly what it appears happened to Woods.

PUMP THE BRAKES
TMZ.com

TMZ spoke with a number of locals who live in the Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates area -- where Tiger's 2021 Genesis GV80 lost control and rolled over in a nasty wreck -- and we're being told the same thing by all ... it's a gnarly bend, that catches up with you if you're going too fast and unfamiliar with the area.

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SCENE OF THE WRECKAGE
Fox 11

As for the road's layout -- where cops say Tiger flipped -- it's a massive downhill grade that cuts into a tough turn. There have even been fatal accidents at the same spot.

Tiger rolled over right at the apex of the turn -- for reasons that have yet to be determined -- but it's no surprise to a lot of folks familiar with the roads there ... who tell us it's incredibly easy to pick up speed as you're zooming down, even without accelerating.

THIS ROAD IS INFAMOUS
TMZ.com

As if that's not enough evidence, there's even a runaway ramp built-in right around that section to help vehicles that have lost control and need an emergency slow-down. It's made of thick gravel, but that just goes to show ... the place is perilous, to say the least.

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FIRST ON THE SCENE
TMZ.com

The Sheriff's Office touched on the velocity factor too during their presser Tuesday ... saying they've clocked people going as fast as 80 MPH or higher in the area, the speed limit is 45.

TIGER'S NEAR MISS
TMZ.com

On top of whatever else might've been going with Tiger at the time of the accident -- we broke the story he was allegedly seen speeding out of the hotel shortly before the crash -- it's clear the elements weren't in his favor at this specific location. It's a beast of a street.

Take it from these folks -- and now Tiger too -- take caution around PV and RHE.

Tiger Woods Badly Injured In Car Crash ... First Driving Video Minutes Before Accident

Exclusive 2/23/21
DANGER AHEAD
TMZSports.com

6:48 PM PT -- TMZ Sports obtained the first video of Tiger driving Tuesday morning on Hawthorne Blvd, minutes before the crash.

This surveillance video shows 2 vehicles heading uphill -- Tiger's Genesis GV80 SUV is trailing behind a minivan at just past 7:05 AM PT. You can see the logo on the door for the Genesis Invitational golf tournament, for which Tiger was in town. He didn't appear to be driving exceptionally fast at this point.

Remember, cops say they got the call about Tiger's accident at 7:12 AM, and where this video was shot is roughly 5 miles south of where he wrecked. You can see there's a big curve in the road -- not unlike the spot where he crashed, except that was downhill where he'd likely be carrying more speed into the turns.

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SCENE OF THE WRECKAGE
Fox 11
TIGER'S NEAR MISS
TMZ.com

1:47 PM PT -- Oliver Konteh, a member of the crew working on the TV show "Grown-ish" recounted to us on video what the director said about Tiger nearly hitting his car just before 7 AM.

TMZ has learned ... Tiger was staying at a hotel where a major network television show was being shot. Production sources tell TMZ, when the director arrived just before 7 AM, Tiger was driving his SUV very fast as he was leaving the property and almost hit the director's car. The director was shaken enough to tell production staff about it after he parked.

A crew member who saw Tiger as he got in his SUV at the hotel tells TMZ, once Tiger got in his vehicle, there was a delay in driving off -- we're told his SUV was blocked by another car that was loading luggage -- and he appeared "agitated and impatient." The crew member says once the delay was over, Tiger "took off fast."

Tiger was scheduled to arrive at Rolling Hills CC at 7:30 AM PT for a shoot ... he was reportedly going to give Drew Brees lessons.

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FIRST ON THE SCENE
TMZ.com

Deputy Carlos Gonzalez — the first person to arrive at the crash scene — says Tiger is lucky to be alive after such a horrific crash.

During a news conference moments ago, Deputy Gonzalez says it was obvious Tiger was badly injured — so he focused on keeping the golfer calm until paramedics arrived.

Tiger was unable to stand on his own due to the serious injuries suffered in the crash — and was put on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.

Tiger was wearing a seatbelt during the crash — and officials believe it might have saved his life.

Deputy Gonzalez says Tiger was lucid and could speak at the crash scene — and did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or any other substance.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva noted there was “no effort to draw blood at the hospital.”

Officials also say it was a quick-thinking neighbor who called 911 — which allowed responders to race to the scene and treat Tiger in a timely manner.

There’s more ... officials also noted the area where Tiger crashed is a “trouble spot” for traffic collisions — with Deputy Gonzalez noting there have been fatalities in that spot in the past

2:03 PM PT -- Contrary to the initial release sent out by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department ... a source with the fire department tells us the jaws of life were NOT used to free Tiger from the crash.

1:00 PM PT -- Law enforcement sources tell TMZ Woods was alert enough at the scene of the accident to ask first responders to have his manager pick up his stuff. We're told cops have not found anything illicit inside the vehicle.

A photo from the crash scene appears to show blood on the driver's side airbag.

12:43 PM PT -- Tiger's good friend, Donald Trump, has issued a statement about the crash ... saying, "Get well soon, Tiger. You are a true champion!"

Tiger and Trump go back years ... with Trump famously awarding Tiger the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019 to honor Tiger for winning the Masters.

12:18 PM PT -- TMZ has obtained the dispatch audio for Tiger's crash, and it sounds like they realized in real time that Tiger was trapped inside ... and were going to need backup STAT.

DISPATCH AUDIO

In the audio, you can hear EMS workers call for surrounding roads to be blocked off ... and discuss the severity of the crash.

11:52 AM PT -- Mark Steinberg, Tiger's agent, says he sustained multiple leg injuries and is currently in surgery.

11:43 AM PT -- An L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. source tells TMZ Sports they do not believe alcohol was involved but they did not say whether any other substance was possibly involved.

Tiger Woods was hospitalized following a bad single-car accident in L.A. County on Tuesday morning -- with officials requiring the jaws of life to free him from the vehicle.

"On February 23, 2021, at approximately 7:12 AM, LASD responded to a single vehicle roll-over traffic collision on the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes," officials say.

"The vehicle was traveling northbound on Hawthorne Boulevard, at Blackhorse Road, when it crashed. The vehicle sustained major damage."

"The driver and sole occupant was identified as PGA golfer, Eldrick 'Tiger' Woods," officials confirmed.

"Mr. Woods was extricated from the wreck with the 'jaws of life' by Los Angeles County firefighters and paramedics, then transported to a local hospital by ambulance for his injuries."

Unclear what caused the accident. Cops are investigating.

45-year-old Tiger was in the area for his annual Genesis Invitational golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades.

Just this week, he took photos with stars like David Spade and Dwyane Wade -- and announced his recent back surgery could keep him out of the upcoming Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

2/21/21
PLANS FOR THE MASTERS
PGA

It's not the first time Tiger Woods has been in a high-profile car accident -- he crashed his SUV in a 2009 incident at his home in Florida.

In 2017, he was arrested after cops found him passed out behind the wheel of his car. Tiger said he had taken prescription medication before driving, and didn't realize the effect the meds would have on him.

Justin Thomas -- one of the best golfers on the planet and Woods' good friend -- got emotional when commenting on the accident Tuesday ... saying he's praying for Tiger's kids and family.

Get Well, Tiger

Originally Published -- 11:29 AM PT

TikTok Star Josh Richards Big Thanks to Marky Mark For Backing my new Production Co.!!!

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MARK AND ME
TMZ.com

Josh Richards is as happy as can be to go from in front of the camera to behind-the-scenes with his new production company ... something Mark Wahlberg is making a reality.

We got the TikTok star Tuesday on the streets of West Hollywood where we asked about his new joint venture with Mark's Unrealistic Ideas -- which is going to help create programming and content that Josh and co. come up with via their new project, CrossCheck Studios.

As for what exactly may end up on camera ... check out what Josh has to say. Sounds like he and the team will focus on unscripted content at first -- but he eventually wants to dive into full-blown scripted stuff ... movies and shows.

Of course, we had to ask about the prospect of filming with Marky Mark one-on-one -- and while it might be a ways away, Josh doesn't hide his enthusiasm at the idea. He'd love a shot to co-star in something.

One last thing -- since we know Mr. Wahlberg DOES enjoy a good fitness challenge ... Josh here says he could probably out bench his new partner. Maybe he's joking, or maybe not 🤷🏽‍♂️

Barack Obama I Broke a Friend's Nose in School ... For Calling Me a Racial Slur

TEACHIN' LESSONS
Spotify/Renegades: Born in the USA

Barack Obama revealed when he was a kid, he once responded to racism with violence ... by popping his own friend in the nose.

The former President was speaking with Bruce Springsteen on their new Spotify podcast, "Renegades: Born in the USA," and amid a wide-ranging conversation about their lives, politics, music and race ... Obama recalled the incident with a classmate.

He says the kid was a friend he played basketball with, and one time they got into a fight and his friend called him a racial slur ... different from the n-word.

Obama says he doesn't even think his schoolmate knew what the word meant -- just that it was meant to be hurtful -- so he "popped him in the face and broke his nose" while they were in the locker room.

Obama says his friend asked him why he did that, and he told him ... "Don't ever call me something like that."

According to Spotify ... Barack and Bruce have been friends since they met on the campaign trail in 2008. The Prez awarded the famous singer the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

Their podcast series is a 6-parter ... with the third episode coming soon.

'The Bachelor' Outsider Sought to Host 'ATFR' ... Replacing Chris Harrison

Exclusive

With Chris Harrison stepping aside for Matt James' "After the Final Rose" ceremony, it's up in the air who will fill his shoes -- but we've learned it might be someone outside the franchise.

Sources directly familiar with the production tell TMZ ... ABC appears to be seeking someone who's not part of 'Bachelor' nation to replace Harrison for the swiftly-approaching shoot. That means no former bachelors, bachelorettes or their suitors ... no matter how popular they are.

Essentially, our sources say producers now seem to have their sights set on someone without ties to the series -- but who's still part of ABC's talent pool. That said, they did make a run at one alum.

We're told Rachel Lindsay -- the first Black 'Bachelorette' -- was asked to take up the mantle, but she declined. She's publicly suggested they consider FS1 sports analyst Emmanuel Acho -- who's not only Black, but also outspoken on issues of race. Let's face it, that's going to be a major topic when cameras roll for 'ATFR.'

Despite Rachel's endorsement, Emmanuel's rep tells us no one's reached out to them yet.

Fans have also been clamoring for Tayshia Adams -- the second-ever Black 'Bachelorette' -- to step up in Harrison's place. She's been vocal about the show's racism controversy lately, but producers have not tapped her

It's unclear if ABC's specifically looking for a POC for this gig -- but all signs seem to point to that being highly considered. It's gonna be a sensitive episode ... not just because of the Harrison fallout, but a potential faceoff between Matt and Rachael Kirkconnell, who's rumored to be the winner.

Matt has already touched on the range of emotions he's feeling now -- and only time will tell how it plays out in front of a live audience. Stay tuned ...

Chrissy Teigen POTUS Unfollow is Just Funny ... Biden Probably Has No Clue!!!

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NO MORE PRESIDENTIAL PRESSURE
TMZ.com

Chrissy Teigen has no regrets about requesting a Twitter unfollow from President Biden because she's a realist, and figures the Prez doesn't run the account anyway.

We got Chrissy leaving E Baldi in Beverly Hills shortly after she lost her @POTUS follow, and she reiterates what she tweeted about feeling free ... but this time without all the profanities. Sorry.

She concedes it's all in good fun though, and not like she really thinks Biden was scrolling through his feed and reading her tweets in the first place. In fact, she doubts he even knows about the whole follow-unfollow saga.

Either way, Chrissy says she adores the Prez and suggests the fact he's in office has made her a different person on the social media platform ... much more peaceful.

Let's see if it lasts.

'RHOA' Star Sheree Whitfield Reignites Old Flame ... After His Prison Release

Exclusive

'Real Housewives of Atlanta' star Sheree Whitfield is free to love whoever she wants ... now that the guy she wants is free from prison!

Sheree's boyfriend, Tyrone Gilliams, tells TMZ ... he was released from prison in Kentucky last week and ever since then he's been spending lots of QT with Sheree. We're told they've mostly been spending time in Philly ... going out and enjoying cheesesteaks, naturally.

We're told Sheree's helping him acclimate back into life on the outside ... which includes helping him catch up with the latest technology.

True 'RHOA' fans know Tyrone and Sheree dated briefly nearly a decade ago, but he cut off contact when he realized the feds were going to indict him in a wire fraud case. Tyrone was ultimately sentenced to 10 years back in October 2013.

They reconnected around her birthday in 2016, and decided to start dating again -- which meant communicating as much as possible, and Sheree visited him in prison.

Things went south, though, in 2018 when Tyrone says he lost an appeal ... so they stopped dating.

Now that Sheree's single and he's scored an early release -- due to COVID spreading in prison -- he says the time was right to rekindle that old flame.

Tyrone says he can see them getting married down the line, but he has no plans to pop the question just yet.

JuJu Smith-Schuster Gunning To Be Steeler For Life ... 'I Want My Legacy In Pittsburgh'

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STEELER FOR LIFE
TMZSports.com

If JuJu Smith-Schuster had it his way, he would NOT leave Pittsburgh in free agency this offseason ... the star receiver tells TMZ Sports he wants to be a Steeler for life!

"At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there," the 24-year-old says. "I don't want to leave."

Smith-Schuster's rookie contract is expiring this offseason ... and he's expected to test the open market, even if the Steelers make him a preliminary offer.

The wideout could command HUGE dollars from teams like the Jets, Patriots or Dolphins ... but he made it clear to us while shopping out in L.A. this week he's hoping the Steelers come close to matching a big deal from other teams.

In fact, when we asked if he could see himself in a Chargers or Rams jersey in 2021 ... JuJu told us straight up, "Not right now. Until I actually get let go, other than that, I'm Pittsburgh for life."

Smith-Schuster started his career with a bang with the Black and Yellow ... recording over 2,300 yards and 14 TDs in his 1st two seasons.

But, injuries, diminished play, a public feud with former teammate Antonio Brown and controversy surrounding pregame dancing TikToks have most believing Pittsburgh will let him walk in the offseason.

As for if his QB could be out in Pitt as well ... Smith-Schuster says he's hopeful both he and 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger find a way to return to the Steelers.

So much so, JuJu tells us he says he's been urging the quarterback and the team to give him FOUR more years!

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