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Ray Lewis: 'How Else Do You Cap Off A Career?'


Ray Lewis cried during the national anthem. He cried as he hugged his teammates on the sidelines when they realized they were headed to New Orleans.

And as the Ravens were about to be handed the Lamar Hunt trophy, Lewis knelt on the stage. He was so overcome with emotion that he couldn't even stand to touch the hardware.

It was yet another emotional day for Lewis, something that's becoming a pattern for the legendary linebacker these days.

After reaching the Super Bowl during the 2000 season, Lewis is back 12 years later – in his final opportunity before retirement.

"For me to come out and say this was my last ride and for now to be headed back to the Super Bowl with the possibility of winning a second ring, how else do you cap off a career?" Lewis said.

"The last ride … I can only tell you I'm along for the ride."

Lewis is the man who left the Ravens with a lasting image from New England a year ago, giving his team a rousing postgame speech about God making no mistakes and about how they would be back there again.

The Ravens made his words come true, reaching Gillette Stadium and the AFC championship in what Lewis and teammates look at as divine intervention.

It appeared as if the Ravens would have to go on without their leader after he suffered a triceps tear in Week 6 that threatened to end his career. But Lewis fought back just for one final chance at another Super Bowl with his teammates.

Lewis specifically mentioned also wanting to get quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed and running back Ray Rice to the Super Bowl. He's been playing beside Reed since 2002 and Suggs since 2003. He's taken Rice under his wing since 2008 and has always stuck up for Flacco.

"I really wanted them to feel what that confetti felt like, just hearing your name being announced going to the Super Bowl," Lewis said.

"The cool thing about Ray is that he's excited about getting back there and having the opportunity to win another one for himself," Flacco said. "But he's more excited because he's felt it and wants all of us to feel it and he knows what it feels like."

Ravens players were galvanized by Lewis' final home game at M&T Bank Stadium in the wild-card playoffs against Indianapolis. Once they won that game, then pulled off a miracle comeback in Denver, the ride became bigger than Lewis.

But they are still carrying his flag along the way, something Lewis called the "greatest respect you can ever ask for."

"Ray Lewis has done so much for this team and for Baltimore. For us to help him get to the Super Bowl for his retirement is an amazing feeling," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "I'm just happy to be on his team at this time."

The last time Lewis was in the Super Bowl, it was just his fifth year in the league. He was a 25* *year old who admits he was much faster than he is now. But he also says he's wiser, not just about football but about life as well.

He won his first and only Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. Now Lewis will go to New Orleans, back south, to try to finish his career with a second one.

"I'm just feeling an incredible amount of awe," Harbaugh said of seeing Lewis return.

"Ray's a guy that has turned everything over. He's surrendered everything and he's become the man that he is to this day. He's a different man than he was when he was 22 or 15 or whatever. I think everybody sees that right now. … It's a very special deal."

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