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Julius Peppers, likely Hall of Famer, announces retirement from NFL after 17 seasons

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 2/1/2019 Tom Schad
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After 17 seasons, 159.5 sacks and nine Pro Bowl appearances, Julius Peppers has decided to call it a career.

The longtime Carolina Panthers defensive end – and, in all likelihood, future Hall of Famer – announced in an essay for The Players' Tribune that he will not return to the field in 2019. 

"Seventeen years is a long time to be playing this game. It’s two careers for a lot of people," Peppers wrote on the site. "I’m thankful that I have been able to play so long and still be healthy. I’m not all banged up and beaten down. I still feel good.

"But as much as I would love to play forever, I know that I can’t. It’s gotta end at some point. That point is now."

One of the most dominant pass-rushers of his era, Peppers went from a unanimous All-American at North Carolina to a three-time All-Pro with his hometown NFL team. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft racked up 81 sacks and 381 tackles in eight years with the Panthers before shorter stints with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. 

Fittingly, Peppers rejoined the Panthers for his final two seasons, posting 11 sacks in 2017 and five this year. He turned 39 last month.

Peppers' 159.5 career sacks rank fourth all-time, only behind Hall of Famers Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Kevin Greene.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Julius Peppers, likely Hall of Famer, announces retirement from NFL after 17 seasons

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