LONDON (AP) - Former England captain John Terry unexpectedly quit international soccer Sunday before he was due to face a Football Association hearing on a racism charge, saying his place on the team had become "untenable."
Despite being cleared in court of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match last year, Terry was facing a lengthy ban if found guilty by an FA panel this week.
"I have always given my all and it breaks my heart to make this decision," Terry said.
The 31-year-old Chelsea defender was fired as England's captain in February but was allowed to continue playing for the national team.
"I am making this statement today in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable," Terry said.
Terry has no plans to stop playing for Chelsea, where he has spent his entire career.
But the FA could still ban Terry for eight club matches, the punishment Liverpool striker Luis Suarez received last year for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in a game.
In the high-profile trial in July, prosecutors claimed Terry snapped in response to insults about an alleged extramarital affair and racially abused Ferdinand. But Terry said all he did was sarcastically repeat the offensive term that he was accused of using.
The magistrate who ruled on the case said in his judgment that Terry's explanation was "certainly under the cold light of forensic examination, unlikely." But he found Terry not guilty of a racially aggravated public order offense after deciding it was "impossible" to be sure what the defender said.
There is a lower burden of proof for the FA charge, however, potentially putting England's soccer authorities in a difficult position about whether Terry could have played for the national team again.
Terry made his debut in 2003 against Serbia and Montenegro and played at the European Championship in June before his trial.
"Representing and captaining my country is what I dreamed of as a boy and it has been a truly great honor," Terry said.
Terry was first stripped of the England captaincy before the 2010 World Cup after allegations he had an affair with teammate Wayne Bridge's former girlfriend.
After being reinstated a year later, Terry lost the England captaincy again when his racism trial was delayed until after Euro 2012. Fabio Capello quit as England coach, unhappy that Terry lost the captaincy against his wishes.
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris