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Muslim US Football Player Penalized for Prayer Gesture

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Kansas City Chiefs free safety Husain Abdullah carries the ball after intercepting a pass and running it back 39 yards for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sept. 29, 2014.

Kansas City Chiefs free safety Husain Abdullah carries the ball after intercepting a pass and running it back 39 yards for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sept. 29, 2014.

A Muslim player in the U.S. National Football League was penalized in a game on Monday for kneeling and praying after scoring a touchdown, but the league has since admitted that calling a penalty at the time was a mistake.

Husain Abdullah of the Kansas City Chiefs was penalized for "unsportsmanlike conduct" after sliding to his knees in prayer to celebrate his touchdown in Monday's game.

Abdullah said after the game he thought he was penalized for sliding, although the reason for the call was not clear at the time.

But NFL official Michael Signora said on Twitter Tuesday that players who go to the ground for religious reasons should not be penalized.

The league's rulebook says "players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground."

The penalty on Abdullah sparked reaction on social media from people saying many Christian players in the NFL have recognized their religion with various words and signals but have never been penalized.

One of them was former Denver Bronco Tim Tebow, whose "Tebowing" (getting down on one knee and praying) celebration became very popular three years ago.

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