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Former Bears star Hester retires from NFL

Posted Dec 12, 2017

Former Bears star Devin Hester—considered by many to be the greatest return specialist in NFL history—officially announced his retirement Tuesday via social media.

Former Bears star Devin Hester—considered by many to be the greatest return specialist in NFL history—officially announced his retirement Tuesday via social media.

"I have good news and bad news," Hester wrote. "Good news: Commissioner Goodell, you can put the kickoff back at the 30. Bad news: Y'all will have to find a new favorite returner.

"Over the last year, I've spent time reflecting on my career surrounded by friends and family, and I realized it's time for me to officially retire from the NFL."

Hester was selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Miami. In eight seasons in Chicago, he became the NFL's all-time leader with 18 kick return touchdowns and 13 punt return TDs, was voted to three Pro Bowls, won 13 special teams player of the week awards and was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000s by the Associated Press and ESPN.

Hester thanked Bears fans in his retirement announcement, writing: "You brought me in and made a Florida boy feel at home in the Midwest from Day 1. I grew into a man, built a family, and became who I am today in the city of Chicago. I'll always remember the noise y'all made whenever I hit open turf at Soldier—never heard anything quite like it. I'd also like to especially thank Coach Lovie Smith for taking a chance on me in the draft and getting this whole thing started."

While playing for the Bears, Hester also tied Hall of Famer Deion Sanders' career record of 19 return touchdowns—which includes punts, kickoffs, missed field goals, fumbles and interceptions—a mark he later broke in 2014 as a member of the Falcons.

After leaving the Bears following the 2013 season, Hester played for the Falcons (2014-15), Ravens (2016) and Seahawks (2016). In his final career game, he averaged 38.8 yards on five kickoff returns for Seattle in a playoff loss to the Falcons on Jan. 14, 2017.

Hester made an immediate impact as a Bears rookie in 2006, setting an NFL single-season record with five kick return touchdowns and then eclipsing the mark with six TDs in 2007.

Hester enjoyed a magical rookie season. He returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown in a 26-0 win over the Packers in his first NFL game; lifted the Bears to stunning 24-23 comeback victory over the Cardinals with a late 83-yard punt return TD; and set a single-game franchise record with 225 kickoff return yards in a win over the Rams, including TDs of 94 and 96 yards.

Hester then capped the year by becoming the first player in NFL history to return the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl for a touchdown, dashing 92 yards in an eventual loss to the Colts.

Hester returned three punts for scores in 2010, two punts and one kickoff for TDs in 2011 and one punt for a touchdown in 2013. He remains the Bears' all-time leader in punt return yards (3,241), kickoff return yards (5,504), total kick return yards (8,745), punt returns (264) and kickoff returns (222).

After playing sparingly at cornerback as a rookie, Hester was switched to receiver in 2007. Over the next six seasons he caught 217 passes for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns. His most productive season as a wideout came in 2009 when he had 57 receptions for 757 yards and three TDs. Hester was not part of the offense in 2013, playing exclusively on special teams.

Here is the retirement letter he posted Tuesday: