Anthony Johnson died from years of hard drinking ... according to the medical examiner, and it's something his wife wanted people to know.
His autopsy report, obtained by TMZ, cites "chronic ethanol use" as the "Friday" star’s cause of death -- while also noting the manner of death was natural.
The doc states there was no alcohol or common drugs of abuse found in his system when officials ran a toxicology test. One other thing ... the coroner's office found he'd recently tested positive for COVID, although signs of pneumonia weren't detected.
His widow, Lexis, tells us Anthony’s legacy will live on through a foundation she’s creating in his name. She also says she wants the cause of death to be public knowledge as a warning to others about the lethal effects of alcohol.
Lexis is making it her mission now to teach youth about the dangers of alcohol, as she's volunteering at church to talk to teens. In addition to Anthony, Lexis has other close friends who lost their children due to alcohol. She now wants Anthony's legacy to inspire others to put the bottle down. BTW, we're told she told the ME about AJ's alcohol use.
As we reported ... Johnson was found lifeless last year in an L.A.-area store. He was rushed to the hospital and later pronounced dead.
Obviously, he was most famous for playing Ezal in the original "Friday" flick, but had a good handful of other parts under his belt as well, including in movies like "Menace II Society," "House Party," "The Players Club" and others.