KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A weeping Marcus Allen knew it was time to retire when he realized he could no longer make great plays -- and was in danger of become crippled if he tried.
Stopping several times to wipe away tears, one of the most honored running backs in NFL history announced Thursday he was ending his 16-year career and joining CBS as a football analyst.
"I played with love and courage and tenacity. That's all I wanted to do," said the 38-year-old Allen, a former league and Super Bowl MVP who appeared in more games (222), rushed for more touchdowns (123) and caught more passes (587) than any other running back in NFL annals. His total of 12,243 rushing yards is No. 6 all-time.
"I don't mind crying because I feel I'm happy," he said after somebody passed him a handkerchief..
Allen, the first running back in NFL history to rush for more than 10,000 yards and catch passes for more than 5,000, told Kansas City Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer just last week that he would play another season.
"I did tell Marty I was returning," Allen said. "But the one constant I've had since I came into this league was I could visualize and see plays unfolding, and be a part of that. And frankly, as hard as I tried to create that, the vision wasn't as strong as it needed to be."
Blessed with great cutting ability and uncanny peripheral vision, Allen had a unique wide-screen view of the field as every play unfolded.
He rarely took a direct hit, allowing him to survive for 16 years at a position where few men last longer than eight. But the fear of serious injury was one more reason quit.
"I clearly thought about that," he said. "One thing I always envisioned was to walk away. It evokes images of Dick Butkus and Joe Namath, who can barely walk. Yes, they're great players. But can they really enjoy their lives like they'd like to? That's something I thought about."
Opponents readily recognized his skill.
"He's like Jim Brown, always getting five or six yards a pop," said Atlanta Falcons linebacker Cornelius Bennett. "What makes him dangerous is his cutback ability."
"He is `The Man,"' said former Denver safety Dennis Smith. "You can see it in his eyes. He does the intimidating."
Only a tiny circle of elite individuals in any sport or era did as many things as well for as long as Marcus Allen.
After winning the Heisman Trophy at Southern California in 1981, he joined the Los Angeles Raiders as a first-round draft choice and quickly established himself as a superlative runner, blocker and receiver as well as a powerful locker room presence with uncommon leadership skills.
"Marcus Allen is the embodiment of the consummate professional football player," said Chiefs' president Carl Peterson, who signed Allen as an unrestricted free agent in 1993 after he had languished for his last two years with the Raiders.
. "Everything that Marcus did, both on and off the field, was put forth in preparation for giving a winning performance each week."
Allen spent his first 11 years with the Raiders, and won the MVP Award in the 1984 Super Bowl. In 1985, he was the league MVP.
But he fell into disfavor with Raiders owner Al Davis, whom he once accused of trying to keep him out of the Hall of Fame by sitting him down his last two years.
But there was no hint of bitterness as he bid farewell.
"This may seem odd today, but I'd like to thank the Raiders for a wonderful and unique experience ... playing with such great players," he said. "I remember when I was a rookie and Greg Pruitt took me under his wing and told me how to become a great pro."
He had special praise for the Chiefs and Schottenheimer, who signed him at 33 hoping to get at least a couple of years out of him.
"Marty, thanks for the opportunity," Allen said, fighting back tears. "To be 33 years old ... to be written off by some, and be given the opportunity just to show what you are and what you do, what I felt like I was born to do, and that was to play football.
"Football has basically been my life. I feel like I'm the luckiest guy alive. You get to live what you want to do. The records, of course, I'm proud of, but my God, it's the people, that's what it's really about."
Allen should be able to step easily into broadcasting. He has had a popular weekly show with the CBS affiliate in Kansas City.
He said the records will fall, but it's the memories that will live on.
"The moments in the training room, the moments at halftime, the moments on the sideline during games. Those are the moments I will take with me forever," he said. "I'm sure my records will be surpassed. It's the people who matter."