Falcons release former Chicago Bear Devin Hester before camp

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03:  Devin Hester #17 of the Atlanta Falcons returns a kick off during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03: Devin Hester #17 of the Atlanta Falcons returns a kick off during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons have released star return specialist Devin Hester before the opening of training camp.

Hester is a three-time All-Pro who set an NFL record with 20 career returns for touchdowns.

The Bears drafted him in the second round in 2006 and he immediately became a game-changer, including a 92-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI against the Indianapolis Colts.

A full-time shift to wide receiver later in his career proved to be ill-advised.

The Bears let him become an unrestricted free agent after eight seasons in 2014 and he signed a three-year deal with the Falcons.

A turf toe injury knocked out most of his season in 2015. He had 269 total return yards during the last five games of the year. The injury prevented him from full participation in offseason workouts.

The Falcons expect wide receivers Eric Weems and Devin Fuller and running back Tevin Coleman to compete for spots on kickoff and punt returns.

Players report for training camp Wednesday and open camp Thursday.