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December 9, 2008Worst fears were confirmed on Monday afternoon when authorities released the name of the George County (Lucedale, Miss.) HS student to have died at a traffic stop earlier in the day. George County Sheriff Garry Welford announced that it was indeed star running back Billey Joe Johnson.
Johnson was the star running back for one of the state's premier teams. Johnson had just completed his junior season with the Rebels and had rushed for 1,529 yards and 24 touchdowns on the year.
The star running back was already being highly recruited by programs such as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Miss State, Southern Miss and Oregon.
According to reports from the George County Sheriff's department, early Monday morning Johnson had been pulled over for a routine traffic violation. When the deputy walked back to his car to run the Johnson's registration he heard a gun-shot.
"What they told us was it was a self-inflicted gun wound. They didn't know if it was accidental or not," head football coach Al Jones told the Sun Herald Newspaper.
School officials said they were stunned by the news. George County assistant coach Darwin Nelson, who went to the scene to help identify the body, said Johnson was one of the most promising athletes he's seen on the football field.
Johnson had was to be honored by WDAM-TV on Monday as part of their all-area team annual banquet.
Johnson was a popular student who was described by classmates and teachers as "friendly, outgoing and happy-go-lucky".
George County school officials have brought in grief counselors for students and faculty members.