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Published on Jan 2, 2013
By Childs Walker and Jeff ZrebiecThe Baltimore Sun 9:26 p.m. EST, January 2, 2013
Ray Lewis, the face of the Ravens since he played in the franchise's first game in Memorial Stadium and arguably the greatest linebacker in NFL history, will make this year's playoff run his last.
Lewis, who expects to return from a torn triceps for Sunday's AFC Wild Card game against the Indianapolis Colts, announced the impending end of his 17-year career to a roomful of stunned teammates on Wednesday morning at the Ravens' practice facility in Owings Mills.
"I told my team that this would be my last ride," Lewis said, startling listeners at a news conference after he had spent a few minutes answering routine questions about his injury. "And I told them I was just at so much peace in where I am with my decision, because of everything I've done in this league. I've done it. I've done it, man. There's no accolade that I don't have individually."
Lewis' biography is one of extremes. A child of a broken home, he became a football prodigy, seemingly destined for the Hall of Fame from early in his career. Then, just as he neared his pinnacle, he faced murder charges that threatened his future. Lewis pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and he became one of the NFL's most divisive players — derided in opposing cities, deeply respected by his peers, adopted wholeheartedly by Baltimore, the city where he played his whole career and devoted his charitable efforts.
A fiery leader, he riled up teammates and home fans like no one else with his signature entry dance at M&T Bank Stadium. He ended up, finally, as an elder statesman, a sort of wise uncle to the generations who followed him into the nation's most popular sport.
A subdued Lewis said he came to his decision while spending time with his sons as he rehabilitated his injury in Florida. A man of outspoken faith, he talked of growing up without a father and not wanting his children to be without him any longer. He had to choose between them and holding onto the game.
"My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father — the ultimate sacrifice for 17 years," he said. "I've done what I wanted to do in this business, and now it is my turn. It's my turn to give them back something."