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Jared Allen announces retirement after 12 seasons

The NFL's cowboy literally rode off in style on Thursday morning.

Jared Allen, a 12-year veteran with 136 career sacks, announced his retirement on Twitter in appropriate fashion -- atop a horse, presumably in the Minnesota wilderness he calls home.

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Jared Allen through the years

Take a back at the best shots from Jared Allen's career.

Like Marshawn Lynch's retirement announcement during the Super Bowl featuring a pair of cleats strung up over a telephone wire, Wednesday's development was perfectly Allen. Perennially overlooked and underrated, Allen was a fourth-round pick out of Idaho State in 2004. Despite being a league-minimum, bottom rung player on a talented defense he eventually climbed to Pro Bowl status in 2007, his first of five trips to the Pro Bowl.

Allen, who could be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, was also named a first-team All-Pro four times. He led the NFL in sacks twice, in 2007 and 2011.

"I want to take this time to thank my family, friends fans, and teammates who have given their continued support throughout my 12 year career," Allen said in a statement distributed by his agent, Ken Harris. "It's been a great ride for me, and I couldn't be more grateful for the memories. It is with a great deal of thought and consideration, that I have decided that I will not return to football next year. I want to thank the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs organizations, who provided me with an opportunity to live out my dream and to be a part of their wonderful communities. Thanks for the life long memories."

Allen was more than a star NFL football player. His list of off-field charitable endeavors included trips overseas to visit with troops, appearances in support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and most notably Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors, which helped provide handicapped-accessible homes for wounded veterans.

He will be remembered for a flowing mullet and cowboy style that evolved throughout his 12 NFL seasons. It reached its crescendo at Super Bowl 50, when Allen bought expensive designer cowboy boots for every member of the Panthers defensive line. Charles Johnson, who wore the boots with Jordan basketball shorts, said that the team immediately accepted Allen after an early-season trade. He was that kind of guy.

That was Allen -- different but almost universally liked right down to retirement.

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