It feels like one of those stories that only happen in the movies -- a beloved athlete announces his retirement in the middle of the reason, the whole team rallies around him, and he gets to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on his final game -- but that's precisely what Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens pulled off, upsetting the 49ers 34-31 to claim their second world Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Lewis, of course, doesn't need much introduction on this blog, or the NFL in general. So much has been written about him over the years that it feels almost redundant at this point. He leaves behind a complicated legacy that will inspire debate for many more years, but there's no doubt about his on-field ability and leadership. He inspired generations of teammates and football fans to live each day like it was their last and give full effort every time.
Read Bruce Raffel's tribute to Ray Lewis.
This isn't the last we will see of Lewis -- he's already slated to join ESPN in 2013 -- but it is the last time we'll see him suit up, come dancing out of the tunnel and leave fans wanting to run through a brick wall. For better or worse, Lewis left an indelible mark on the NFL, and we won't see a player or personality like his for a long, long time.
Congratulations to Lewis and the Ravens for getting their storybook ending.