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One of the faces of the National Football League will hang up his shoulder pads after this season. Ray Lewis told the only team he’s ever played for, the Baltimore Ravens, that he will retire after this upcoming playoff run.

Lewis hasn’t played since tearing his right triceps Oct. 15, missing 10 games. Initially expected to miss the rest of the season, he came back much earlier than expected and was activated from the injured reserve list Dec. 26 but didn’t suit up in the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Lewis, who is one of the most influential athletes in the history of professional football, was a first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 and has played for them his entire career. His numbers speak for itself. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003, and was awarded the Super Bowl MVP after winning Super Bowl XXXV after the 2000 season.

Lewis is also a thirteen-time Pro Bowler and seven-time AP First Team All-Pro player. He was also a two-time All-American in college as a member of the University of Miami Hurricanes and the lone remaining member of the Baltimore Ravens team that won Superbowl XXXV. Lewis was also on trial for aggravated assault and murder after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000.

His attorneys negotiated a plea deal where the murder charges against Lewis were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against his friends, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, and his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. Winning the Super Bowl MVP after the case, he wasn’t allowed to deliver the famous “I’m going to Disney World” line, instead opting with Quarterback Trent Dilfer.

At 17 years playing the most physically demanding position of the violent sport, Lewis was a medical miracle that he’s been able to keep up his level of play at his age up until his injury. At press time, it was unclear if Lewis will play against the Indianapolis Colts in his team’s wild card playoff round this Sunday but did say “there is no reason for me not to be playing.”

[Spotted at ESPN]

Photo: AP