SOME PEOPLE LIKE Pepsi with their chicken wings. Bill "El Wingador" Simmons apparently prefers coke.

Simmons, the self-described "just a guy that liked chicken" who became a Philadelphia-area celebrity for repeatedly dominating Sportsradio 94WIP's Wing Bowl, was busted Friday when New Jersey State Police troopers found $8,000 worth of cocaine and $4,000 in cash in his Kia Soul, police said Tuesday.

And it wasn't a random traffic stop. Gloucester County detectives and the state police's drug-trafficking unit already had their eyes on Simmons, 50, of Woodbury Heights, for suspected drug-dealing.

At 6 feet 5 and 330 pounds, he's tough to miss.

"It is regrettable that Mr. Simmons' notoriety has taken a negative turn," said Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton.

Nothing else of note was found in the car, said state police Lt. Stephen Jones: "Wouldn't you love some wings or sauce? But no, not that I know of."

Simmons, a popular five-time Wing Bowl champion who'd vowed that this year's gluttonfest Feb. 3 at the Wells Fargo Center was his last, is charged with first-degree drug distribution. He's jailed on $100,000 cash bail.

"Awww, poor El Wingador," lamented Mary Carey, the porn star-turned-politician-turned-nude model and three-time Wing Bowl Wingette.

"I always thought he was very nice. Maybe next year I will be his Wingette and can give him some rehab advice," Carey said by text message. She appeared in VH1's "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" and "Sober House" as she recovered from alcohol and Xanax addiction. It's unclear whether Simmons has been using cocaine himself.

Jonathan "Super" Squibb, a three-time Wing Bowl champion, was surprised to learn of Simmons' arrest.

"For me, when I first started in Wing Bowl, he had won five previous times and was treated as a legend of Wing Bowl," Squibb said. "And at the time, he was."

Wing Bowl competitor Rick "The Manager" Russo said the "tight-knit" competitive-eating world is in a collective state of shock.

"I'm sorry for his family and I sincerely hope that his wife and children are able to cope through this situation," said Russo, who joked that he might suggest to WIP hosts Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti that they "consider administering urine tests" for the next Wing Bowl.

WIP management and Cataldi declined to comment on El Wingador's arrest.

Simmons' Kia was wrapped in a decal that touted his five championships and his website, www.elwingador.com. The domain name, however, expired last month and is pending renewal or deletion.

In 2007, the ex-truck driver, who trains by eating baseball-size chunks of Tootsie Rolls, opened Original El Wingador To Go, a restaurant at 4th and Girard streets that sold his wings. It closed after just four months. He was paid $200 a pop to make celebrity appearances at Just Sports Bar & Grill in Bristol, but that shut down four years ago. He'd recently talked of hosting a new reality-TV show called "America's Biggest Eater."

"That's a shame. He appeared to be a nice person. But you never know what somebody does," said Sandy Fischer, the Bristol bar's former owner. "He was just an unbelievable consumer of wings. He devoured them. People came just to see him eat those wings."

Simmons — an affable everyman who finished third this year and second in last year's Wing Bowl by eating 254 wings in 30 minutes — received national exposure in February when Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris made a video about him for the New York Times website.

"I could probably bite that camera in half right now," Simmons says in the short film, "because my jaws are pretty strong."

He sounded serious.

Contact William Bender at 215-854-5255 or benderw@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @wbender99. Read his blog, "Daily Delco" at philly.com/dailydelco.

 

Daily News staff writer Jason Nark contributed to this report.

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