NFL Hall of Famer Gale Sayers will travel to Chicago for a special Bears100 Celebration -- despite suffering from "severe dementia," this according to his wife.
The 76-year-old legend was diagnosed over 5 years ago, Ardie Sayers told The Athletic ... but his condition has gotten drastically worse over time.
Sayers had spent time living in an assisted living facility -- but that didn't work out ... so now he's back at home with his 83-year-old wife.
Ardie says Gale struggles with speech and movement ... and no longer signs autographs because he can't write.
"It's kind of sad because he used to love to write his name," Ardie told The Athletic.
Despite his condition, Ardie says Gale will travel to Chicago for the Bears100 Celebration on Friday -- where she hopes being around his old friends and fans will help "jog his memory."
Gale's old teammate, Dick Butkus, says Ardie deserves an INCREDIBLE amount of credit for helping Gale live his best life over the years ... calling her an "unsung hero."
For her part, Ardie tells The Athletic ... "The hardest part is seeing how he has changed, and how he can’t do the things that he used to. It’s sad, but it’s a part of life."
"I just ask God to keep me healthy mentally and physically, so I can help him through it and take care of him. That’s what you do when you are married. If someone gets sick, you don’t just leave. I’m not going to give up. I just try to make him as happy as I can. We’re going to go through this together."
Sayers was a monster on the field during his 7 years in the NFL -- rushing for more than 4,956 yards in just 68 games.
Gale was inducted into the Hall of Fame when he was only 34-years-old -- the youngest player to ever be inducted.
Of course, Gale was also famous for his friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo, who died from cancer in 1970. Their friendship inspired the Emmy Award-winning TV movie, "Brian's Song."