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Cleveland Browns' Chris Smith discusses decision to return to field after girlfriend's death

Petara Cordero, who recently welcomed a daughter with Chris Smith, was struck and killed by a driver on a highway in Cleveland last week.
/ Source: TODAY

When Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith walks onto the field Monday night, he'll be doing it in memory of his girlfriend, Petara Cordero, who was struck and killed by a car last Wednesday.

Smith, 27, has decided to play in the "Monday Night Football" game against the New York Jets because he knows Cordero, 26, wouldn't want him to miss the game.

"I am going to play tonight because it is something she would want me to do," Smith said in a statement to "She would want me to keep doing what I love and stay strong. I play for her tonight. She is my why."

Smith paid tribute to Cordero on Friday with an Instagram slideshow, writing, "God has a plan for all of us we can’t understand but she is in a better place now and she can rest easy."

The couple were on a highway in Cleveland last Wednesday morning when a tire malfunction caused their vehicle to spin and hit a median, according to the team. After they pulled over and exited the car, Cordero was hit by an oncoming Mazda 3.

The woman who drove the vehicle that hit Cordero admitted she had been drinking, according to WKYC in Cleveland. A toxicology report has not yet been released.

The tragedy comes during what had been a joyful time for the couple. They welcomed a baby girl named Haven Harris Smith in August.

Ever the proud partner and father, Smith shared a sweet photo of Cordero cradling their newborn.

"I’m so thankful to have another beautiful gift in this world my daughter Haven Harris Smith," he wrote at the time. "You are such a blessing to me and your mother!! Love you Petara and Baby Haven."