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Ray Lewis Goes Out On Top


Ray Lewis pulled his children close around him in the postgame locker room as he unwrapped the tape around his wrists for the final time.

"How better do you go out than on a goal-line stand?" Lewis rhetorically asked his children.

Very few athletes get to go out on top.

But in the Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Lewis got the perfect ending he has long been searching for.

"Now I get to ride off into the sunset with my second ring," Lewis said.

There are other NFL legends who got to retire at the end of a Super Bowl victory, including Broncos quarterback John Elway, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.

But Lewis' "last ride" is a story that's hard to beat.

Lewis waited 12 years to get his second ring. He went through grueling rehabilitation from a torn triceps this season just to have a chance at it to cap a 17-year career.

"I had dreams after dreams," Lewis said. "I couldn't sleep."

Lewis wasn't the same player he was the last time he won Super Bowl MVP in 2001. Then, he flew sideline to sideline making plays.

On Sunday, Lewis was picked on in coverage by the 49ers. He logged seven tackles in his final game. But his performance didn't matter to Lewis. It hasn't for a long time.

"My play is what I can do for my defense and what I can do for my team," Lewis said. "What we did as a team today was the ultimate."

A popular storyline in the Ravens' playoff run was that the team was playing for Lewis. Head Coach John Harbaugh said that was overblown. The Ravens were motivated for so many reasons.

But seeing Lewis hoist the Lombardi Trophy once again was an emotional moment for his coach and teammates.

Suggs hugged Lewis in the postgame madness as the confetti dropped around them. The outside linebacker grew up in Lewis' eyes since being drafted by Baltimore in 2003, not only in football but in life, Suggs said.

Suggs had a simple message for Lewis at the game's end. "I told him I love him."

"The ultimate cake," Suggs said. "There will never be another leader like him and we sent him out like his brothers, and his legacy will go untainted. … How else do you show your leader your appreciation?"

Safety Ed Reed played with Lewis since 2002. The two are extremely close, and Lewis entrusted Reed this past offseason with his decision that this would be his final season.

"Mission complete, man," Reed said. "I worked my tail off to prepare to be a part of this with my teammates. It's special, man. It's special for his career, for what he's given to guys across the league, for what he does with his foundation and his heart and what he gives to people."

So what now for Lewis?

As he made sure Ray Lewis III, who Lewis is looking forward to watching play at the University of Miami, got to kiss the Lombardi Trophy in the postgame locker room, it was clear.

"Everything around me is my kids," Lewis said. "Daddy gets to come home now. I get to chase them. … It is the most ultimate feeling ever. This is the way you do it. No other way to go out and end a career. This is how you do it."

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