JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A former 49ers player took the witness stand in the sentencing of the U.S. soldier who massacred 16 Afghan villagers last year.

Marc Edwards was a high school football teammate of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Norwood, Ohio, who went on to play in the NFL. Edwards, a fullback who spent his first two NFL seasons with the 49ers from 1997-98, testified Thursday wearing the Super Bowl ring he won in 2002 with the New England Patriots.

Bales pleaded guilty in June in a deal to avoid the death penalty, acknowledging that he slaughtered 16 people, mostly women and children, during unsanctioned, solo, pre-dawn raids on two villages March 11, 2012. A jury is deciding whether he should be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, or without it. Edwards called Bales an "unbelievable leader" on the high school squad who was magnanimous when Edwards took his position on the team.