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Report: Atkinson exits Notre Dame

George Atkinson III took the decision about his future out of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's hands Wednesday.

The junior running back filed paperwork to enter the NFL draft, according to Blue & Gold Illustrated.

The decision to leave school early comes after Atkinson was suspended because of a violation of team rules before the Irish's 29-16 victory over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28 in Yankee Stadium.

Atkinson went on Twitter to explain his absence from the game, claiming he was suspended for texting family members during the team meal. He deleted the tweet shortly after posting it, and Kelly gave a somewhat terse answer when asked about the running back's future with the team after the game.

"I haven't made that decision yet," Kelly said.

Atkinson made the decision for Kelly, and his father and former Oakland Raiders defensive back George Atkinson Jr. to Blue & Gold Illustrated that his son's decision to leave early had nothing to do with the suspension.

Atkinson began the season as Notre Dame's top running back option, but as the season went on, he fell behind junior Cam McDaniel and freshman Tarean Folston.

Atkinson finished second on the team in rushing yards with 555 and his three rushing touchdowns matched McDaniel's for the team lead.

He also handled kickoff returns, gaining 780 yards on 31 returns.

Atkinson leaves Notre Dame with 153 carries for 943 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards per carry in three seasons.

He leaves with 3,144 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns.

Atkinson's departure loosens up a crowded Notre Dame backfield, which along with McDaniel and Folston, also returns Amir Carlisle and Greg Bryant, who returns after getting a medical redshirt for his freshman season because of a knee injury.

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.