New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has announced his retirement.
The 42-year-old ends his illustrious 20-year career as the most prolific passer in NFL history.
He led the Saints to their only Super Bowl after the 2009 season, when they beat Indianapolis Colts to win the title.
“I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning,” he said.
Brees, who joined the Saints from San Diego Chargers in 2006, has thrown for 80,358 yards passing, which is the most in NFL history, while he also made 7,142 completions.
His 571 touchdown passes is only second to fellow veteran quarterback Tom Brady’s 581.
In a message on social media, he added: “Until the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints organisation, my team, and the great city of New Orleans.
“We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us.
“You have moulded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories. My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give to you everything you had given to me and more.”
‘He was a magnificent leader’ – Saints lead Brees tributes
Brees hit 32 passes for 288 yards when Saints won the Super Bowl and he was voted the game’s most valuable player.
His retirement comes almost two months after his side were eliminated in the play-offs by Brady and eventual 2021 Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Saints owner Gayle Benson said Brees was “much more valuable than all the records, awards and accolades that he amassed” and was “one of the greatest in our league’s history”.
She added: “When Drew first joined the Saints in 2006, my late husband Tom was determined to deliver a team to New Orleans that would win a championship on the field and become a leader in the community following the setbacks that Hurricane Katrina dealt our region.
“Over and above his outstanding performance, Drew came to represent the resolve, passion and drive that resonates not only with Saints fans and football fans, but our entire community.”
Saints head coach Sean Payton said: “Throughout his career, his consistency and dedication to excellence were unparalleled.
“He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field. His attention to detail and competitive spirit were infectious.
“For all of us that have had the chance to coach him, it has been our privilege, we are better for it.”