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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Fred Thompson, a folksy former Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee who appeared in feature films and television including a role on "Law & Order," died Sunday, his family said.

He was 73.

Thompson, at 6-foot-6 with a booming voice, appeared in at least 20 motion pictures. His credits include "In the Line of Fire," "The Hunt for Red October," "Die Hard II" and "Cape Fear."

By the early 1990s, Thompson said he had become bored with his 10-year stint in Hollywood and wanted to go into public service. That's when he headed back to Nashville and launched his Senate campaign. A man of many roles in life and on the screen, he was a lawyer by training and also once served as a chief minority counsel during the Senate Watergate hearings.

The family statement said Thompson died in Nashville following a recurrence of lymphoma.

Politics: Thompson, a lawyer, alternated between politics and acting much of his adult life. Once regarded as a rising star in the Senate, he retired from that seat when his term expired in January 2003.

He returned to politics in 2007 by announcing he would seek the Republican presidential nomination. But he dropped out in January 2008 after faring poorly in the early caucuses and primaries.

Just before leaving the Senate, Thompson said too much time was spent on meaningless matters and partisan bickering. "On important stuff, where the interests are really dug in on both sides, it's extremely difficult to get anything done," Thompson told AP at the time.

After retiring from the Senate, Thompson took a role on the TV show "Law & Order." In 2007, he portrayed Ulysses S. Grant in the TV movie "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

Thompson hosted a conservative radio talk show from 2009 to 2011.

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