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LT Officially Retires; Countdown To Canton Begin
LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL's fifth all-time leading rusher and the San Diego Chargers' first-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, re-signed with San Diego and officially announced his retirement from the National Football League at a press conference Monday at Chargers Park.

Tomlinson told those assembled the reason for his decision to retire was 30-35 percent because of his kids. Asked what the other 65-70 percent was, he said: "Basically, I'm going to be 33 years old and quite frankly I feel like it's just time. As a running back you try to continue to play at a high level. At 33 years old, it's pretty difficult. Physically I'm fine. ...

Mentally it drains you more than anything."

Tomlinson, who turns 33 on Saturday, spent the past two seasons with the New York Jets, but for his legendary NFL career, San Diego is home.

As San Diego Union-Tribune staffer Kevin Acee framed it on Sunday when the news first broke, "It's where he rushed for more than 91 percent of his yards and caught 85 percent of his passes. It's where he threw for seven touchdown passes on 12 career passes, a sparkling 146.9 quarterback rating.

"It's where, in 2006, he scored an NFL-record 28 rushing touchdowns, floating to the air in the end zone over his teammates' outstretched arms, and was named the NFL MVP and NFL Man of the Year.

"It's where he found a floundering franchise in 2001, strapped on his gloves, and carried it to being a contender.

"It's where he'll represent when he's one day inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, almost certainly the first year he’s eligible, in 2017. ..."

And fittingly, it's where it ended today.

Tomlinson told reporters he knew at the end of the 2011 season he might be walking away.

"It wasn't because I didn't want to play anymore. That wasn't the reason. It was simply time to move on. One thing I'll remember was when Junior Seau retired, he stood up here and gave his speech and one thing that stood out to me was when he said, 'I'm graduating today.' That's the way I look at it. I've been playing football for 20-some years. You sacrifice so much. You put it on the line mentally and physically with your body. Today, I take the words of Junior Seau. I feel like I'm graduating. I've got my life ahead of me. I'm healthy. I'm got my great family.

"I'm excited to be a fan and watch you all play."

It's safe to say few will play the way he did.

Tomlinson started 141 games over nine seasons in San Diego, rushing for 12,490 yards with 138 touchdowns and adding 530 receptions for 3,955 yards and 15 touchdowns.

A five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time, first-team All-Pro, Tomlinson is the Chargers' all-time leader in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, ranks second in scoring (918 points) and is fifth on their all-time receptions list and 10th in receiving yards.

Tomlinson had 145 career rushing touchdowns, second-most in NFL history behind Emmitt Smith. He rushed for 13,684 yards, No. 5 all-time. He killed the Raiders again and again in 19 games, totaling 2,055 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, most against Oakland by anyone.

Tomlinson signed with the New York Jets as a free agent in 2010. In two seasons with the Jets, Tomlinson gained 1,194 yards and scored seven touchdowns on the ground with 94 receptions for 817 yards and two touchdowns out of the backfield.

Tomlinson twice led the NFL in rushing (2006, 2007) and was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 2006. With 13,684 rushing yards in his career, Tomlinson currently ranks fifth on the all-time list, behind Hall of Famers Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin.

As Acee suggested, Tomlinson soon will join those backs in Canton, as the clock for his Hall of Fame eligibility has begun its countdown.