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 last 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 said the Cardinals had decided not to re-sign him for next year.
"That made my decision a whole lot easier," Smith said, adding that he turned down offers to continue his career elsewhere. "I have a home. It's with
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, 1992 and 1995 and in touchdowns in three
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 of that season in a contract dispute with Jones. Smith finished that regular season with perhaps his
greatest game, an overtime win over the New York Giants at the Meadowlands.
The Cowboys and Giants were both 11-4. The winner got the NFC East title, home-field advantage in the playoffs and a first-round bye. The loser got a
wild-card game the following week.
Smith separated his shoulder in the third quarter but returned to the game, which went into overtime tied at 13. He carried the ball on nine of the
Cowboys' 11 plays in the extra period at one point raising his aching shoulder to stiff-arm Lawrence Taylor on his final run, which set up Eddie
Murray's game-winning field goal.
He finished with 229 total yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and 10 receptions, the heaviest workload in team history, then spent the night in a
Had the Cowboys lost that game, Smith probably wouldn't have been able to play the following week in a wild-card game. That would have made the road
much more difficult in what turned out to be the Cowboys' second of three Super Bowl victories in four seasons.
"Emmitt has never forgot he was part of a team and what the team meant," Jones said. "You're place in our franchise has always been secure."
[Edited on 3/2/05 by TRD]