JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith retired Thursday, calling his 15-year career "a tremendous ride."
Smith, who starred for the Dallas Cowboys for 13 seasons and spent the past two years with Arizona, made the announcement at the Super Bowl - a fitting spot for a three-time champion.
"I've given everything I can possible to the game, on and off the field," Smith said.
Wearing a pinstripe suit - blue, of course - Smith thanked dozens of people from Pee Wee football to the Cardinals and every stop in between. He broke down several times and had tears streaming down his face as he clutched his wife's hand.
"The memories that I have, the relationships that I'm taking away from the game are something dear and something I will take with me for the rest of my life," he said. "I'm moving on to another chapter in my life and that's a chapter I'm looking forward to."
Smith said he planned to pursue some business opportunities but vowed to stay close to the game and give something back to the fans.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, one of the many Smith thanked through tears, gave the best reason for the long list of salutations.
"When you've established yourself as royalty, then you have to mention everybody," Jones said. "That's the price you pay."
The 35-year-old Smith ran for 18,355 yards and 164 touchdowns in his career, both NFL records. He rushed for 937 yards and nine touchdowns for the Cardinals this season.
Smith was more consistent than he was spectacular, a running back who could be relied on to get tough yards when tough yards were needed.
He rushed for 1,000 yards or more every year between 1991 and 2001. He led the NFL in rushing in 1991-92 and 1995 and in touchdowns three times.
But despite his impressive statistics, he won just two major awards in 15 seasons - NFL MVP in 1993 and the Super Bowl MVP that same season, when he rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys' 30-13 win over Buffalo in Atlanta.
He won those despite missing the first two games in a contract dispute with Jones.
"Emmitt has never forgot he was part of a team and what the team meant," Jones said. "Your place in our franchise has always been secure."
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