"I am extremely saddened by the passing of Mr. Ford," Stafford said in the statement. "He was a tremendous owner, as well as a respected and passionate leader of our football team. He gave me and many people in the city of Detroit an opportunity to be a part of something great. He was a joy to play for, and his love for the Lions and the city of Detroit will be something we all remember.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the Ford family, and I will always be thankful for the opportunity and the honor to play for Mr. Ford and his beloved Lions."
Funeral services will be private, and Ford locations across the United States will lower Ford and American flags to half-staff for 30 days.
Legendary Lions running back Barry Sanders tweeted out his condolences.
Sending my thoughts and prayers to the Ford Family & @DetroitLionsNFL - Mr. Ford was a visionary that will be missed by us all.- Barry Sanders (@BarrySanders) March 9, 2014
As did Reggie Bush, the Lions' current starting running back.
Today the city of Detroit lost a great man! RIP Mr. William Clay Ford- Reggie Bush (@ReggieBush) March 9, 2014
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay also tweeted on Ford's passing.
Rest in peace, William Clay Ford Sr.- Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 9, 2014
ESPN's Darren Rovell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.