Jerry Rice, the National Football League's career pass receptions record holder, retired Monday after 20 seasons, unwilling to relegate himself to a reserve player with the Denver Broncos.
The 42-year-old Rice, who holds 38 NFL records, made his decision over the weekend at home in San Francisco, then returned to Broncos headquarters and met with coach Mike Shanahan.
"This is a happy day," he said. "I think the tears that you see basically is that I have really enjoyed this ride."
Shanahan confirmed what Rice already knew -- that he would be a fourth or fifth receiver, at best this season -- and Rice confirmed what many figured -- that he would rather call it quits than be a reserve with the Broncos.
Rice signed with Denver over the summer, reuniting with Shanahan, who was his offensive coordinator in the 1990s with the San Francisco 49ers. For Rice, the idea was to play for a coach who was familiar with him and for a team that could help him go out a winner.
Shanahan made it clear he would not promise Rice anything, not even a roster spot. Behind the scenes, though, Shanahan said he knew it would never come down to him having to cut the league's best all-time receiver: He figured if Rice knew it was time to go, he would step aside himself.
His agent, Jim Steiner, has said if Rice retired this time, he would not try to come backm. Besides career receptions (1,549), Rice also holds the NFL records for yards receiving (22,895) and touchdown catches (197).