Ultimately, he struck out in his professional sports career and shifted to acting. Westerns like Gunsmoke and Wagon Train were hugely popular on American television in the 1950s. Connors was cast as the lead character, Lucas McCain, in an ABC series, The Rifleman, which made its premiere on Sept. 30, 1958.
The show was a hit during its five-year run. Its last episode was aired on April 8, 1963. Connors went on to appear in a number of films and short-lived television series but none that achieved the renown of The Rifleman. In spite of his athleticism, Connors reputedly smoked three packs of Camel cigarettes for much of his adult life. He died of lung cancer in 1992 at the age of 71.
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