NEW ORLEANS - Ray Lewis came back for one last ride and now he goes out a champion.
On Jan. 2, the Ravens' longtime middle linebacker and emotional leader announced that whenever the team's postseason run ended, so would his career.
He said he had four more games, if not more, in him at the time. And now after 17 years in the league, all with the Ravens, Lewis' final game resulted in a Super Bowl victory.
"It is the ultimate feeling ever," Lewis said. "This is the way you do it, no other way to go out and end a career. This is how you do it."
Lewis made seven tackles in his last game and got to feel the confetti one more time.
Lewis pushed himself to come back from potentially season-ending torn triceps to play again this year, and now he goes out in the same way as Broncos quarterback John Elway, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.
"We said it all year, and now I can finally speak about it. I can think about self a little bit now," Lewis said. "What better way to go out? And I think more importantly, it was my teammates in the way I went out - the things we've been through all year. I was tested through this journey. It was an up-and-down roller coaster - the injuries, the people - and we stayed together. And now, I get to ride off into the sunset with my second ring."
Running back Ray Rice has had his locker next to Lewis' for his first five seasons, and was thrilled to see his teammate finish up like that.
"One thing about winning the Super Bowl is that you do everything you want and you finally realize everything was worth it," Rice said. "No team is going to be the same. After the season is over and after we do all our stuff, next year the locker room is going to be different. This is the one thing that's not going to separate us for life. We'll forever be champions because we won the Super Bowl."
Linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has played alongside Lewis for 10 years, called it the "ultimate cake" to send his career-long comrade out on top.
"There will never be another leader like him and we sent him out like his brothers, and his legacy will go untainted," Suggs said.