Ray Lewis has known for years that once he called it a career, his name would go into the Ravens Ring of Honor.
He will get that distinction Sunday, at halftime of the matchup with the Houston Texans.
It will be Lewis' first time back at M&T Bank Stadium since he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as part of the team's Super Bowl celebration in February. The ceremony will celebrate the career of arguably the greatest linebacker to ever play the game, and also serve as a farewell to the man who helped build the Ravens into one of the NFL's elite franchises.
"To come back and feel what that love feels like, it's just amazing," Lewis said Tuesday during a national conference call. "I'm really looking forward to it, and I'm really looking forward to seeing my kids' eyes and just seeing my family and just being around them and just sharing that moment with them, because it's huge.
"It's huge when you sit back and pay attention to it."
Lewis will become the eighth Ravens player inducted into the Ring of Honor, joining Jamal Lewis, Matt Stover, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary and Earnest Byner, and former owner Art Modell. Former Baltimore Colts Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, John Mackey, Jim Parker and Ted Hendricks are also enshrined.
All of those names went into the Ring of Honor during Lewis' tenure with the Ravens, but he never had a chance to enjoy those festivities during his playing days. Lewis said he's never seen a Ravens Ring of Honor ceremony, as he was always in the locker room preparing for the second half of the game.
Now it's his time to stand in the middle of the field and hear the response from Baltimore fans.
"It's one of the most humbling feelings that you ever go through," Lewis said. "You think, 'Wow, I was able to stand on my own, finish my career, go out on top, now return back to my city.' To be honest, it's very humbling."
Lewis, 38, retired this offseason after 17 seasons with the Ravens. The second pick in team history was the cornerstone of the franchise, racking up records and building the Ravens defense into one of the NFL's most feared units for more than a decade.
During Lewis' time in Baltimore, the Ravens were a top 10 defense in all but four seasons, and he was the team's unquestioned emotional leader. Teammates routinely referred to him as, "The General."
Lewis came to Baltimore just three months after the franchise moved from Cleveland, before the team even had jerseys, team colors or its own stadium. When Lewis finished his career the Superdome in New Orleans seven months ago, the Ravens had won two Super Bowls and made the playoffs in his final five seasons.
"The most exciting thing for me is that we were at the beginning of that. I saw the beginning of that," Lewis said. "And to build that brand the way it is now, the way it's respected now, it's like the ultimate. It's like any CEO building a brand, building a product."
Lewis' records and accomplishments rival the game's greats – 12 Pro Bowls, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, two Super Bowls, one Super Bowl MVP – and he capped his career with a legendary goal line stand in Super Bowl XLVII.
Few players have the kind of connection with their franchise and city like the one Lewis shares with Baltimore. And on Sunday he will have one more chance to take the field to be honored by the organization that he helped build.
"I finished the race," Lewis said. "I finished the race, and now that I look back, I don't know how I finished it sometimes when I look back and it's 17 years. But I did."