He was found dead in his car early Tuesday morning along Highway 751 in Chatham County next to Jordan Lake. Officials say the preliminary investigation shows the death may have been an overdose.
Deputies say they suspect Pettigrew may have taken the sleep aid Unisom. His body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill for an autopsy. No other details were immediately available.
According to TarHeelBlue.com, UNC Athletics Director Dick Baddour released the following statement Tuesday:
"Although we are still learning the circumstances, we are deeply saddened to learn of Antonio's death. I was particularly impressed with the relationships he established with his student-athletes and the pride he took in representing the University of North Carolina. Our deepest condolences go out to Antonio's family, particularly his wife and son."
Pettigrew was entering his fourth season as an assistant coach at the time of his death. He coached sprints, hurdle and relays for the track team.
A 1993 graduate of St. Augustine's in Raleigh, Pettigrew coached at his alma mater for three years as an assistant and then went on the coast at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh.
"Saint Augustine's College is saddened by the loss of Antonio Pettigrew," said Dianne Boardley Suber, Saint Augustine's College. "He will always be remembered as a first class athlete; one who played a major role in establishing a tradition of excellence in the track and field program at Saint Augustine's College. Our heartfelt prayers and thoughts are sent to his wife Cassandra, their son Antonio, Jr., and to his extended family."
At Cardinal Gibbons, Pettigrew spent three years as the director of cross country and track and field.
Pettigrew was a 10-time All-America performer and four-time Division II NCAA Champion in the 400 meters.
In 2008, the International Olympic Committee stripped him of his 1999 World Championship and 2000 Olympic relay gold medals after he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs between 1997 and 2001.
He and his wife Cassandra have a son, Antonio Pettigrew, Jr.