|A younger Lewis holds up a newspaper after the Ravens Super Bowl victory. (Getty Images)|
Ray Lewis is walking away from the game of football following this season, the linebacker said Wednesday.
Lewis, one of the all-time NFL greats and arguably the best middle linebacker ever, told his teammates "this will be my last ride."
Ray Lewis told the team today "this will be my last ride."— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 2, 2013
This means Sunday's wild-card game against the Colts could be Lewis' final home game with the Ravens. The Ravens are the AFC's fourth seed and would need some serious breaks in order to find themselves playing postseason football back at home again.
Lewis doesn't expect his journey to end Sunday, however.
"Wherever it ends it ends," Lewis said. "But I didn't come back to be eliminated in the first round."
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The first-round matchup for the Ravens is suddenly a fascinating one: the Colts are riding an intangible train drawing inspiration from Chuck Pagano, who just so happens to be the former defensive coordinator for Baltimore and knows what Lewis can bring to a game.
"He'll probably introduce the defense and probably be the last one out and he'll ignite and incite a riot so to speak," Pagano said. "And there will be a ton of energy on that football team and on that sideline and in that stadium. He's their leader and any time you get your leader back it's an added spark."
Lewis is as well known for his introduction dance and energy as he is for his play on the field; expect M&T Bank Stadium to be rocking when he comes on the field before the game.
There's little question, of course, about Lewis' status once he retires.
"Obviously he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer, we all know what he's done on and off the football field," Pagano said "Like everyone who's had an opportunity to be around the guy, we'll cherish that for the rest of our lives."
Lewis is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, a 13-time Pro Bowler, a seven-time First Team All-Pro and a Super Bowl MVP.
And now he's leaving the game he helped influence so much.
"I've ran my course," Lewis said. "It's time for me to go create a different legacy."
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