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Niners' Jarryd Hayne retires to pursue Olympic dream

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The Hayne Plane is leaving the NFL.

The San Francisco 49ers announced Sunday running back Jarryd Hayne has retired from the NFL to and will pursue playing rugby in the Olympics.

It's a semi-surprising move after Hayne insisted this offseason he was preparing to battle for playing time in the Niners' backfield.

The National Rugby League star said in a statement he plans to try out for the Fiji Rugby Sevens Olympic team.

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"I am retiring from the NFL because the Fiji Rugby Sevens team reached out to me about the opportunity to join the team for the upcoming Olympics, and I simply could not pass that chance up," he said. "The Olympics has been something I have admired since I was a little boy, and it is an opportunity I feel very similar to me joining the NFL.

"The 49ers organization has been incredibly supportive throughout my journey and I cannot thank them and the support staff enough. I am especially grateful to the strength and conditioning coaches, trainers and medical staff, equipment guys, public relations crew, chefs, logistics, and merchandise staff for their countless hours helping me in many different ways, so I could focus on football. Thank you to the fans from down under, as well as those around the world, who stood behind me and supported me along this amazing journey. I also want to thank the boys, especially my running back brothers, for their help and support in my transition to the NFL. I wish the team nothing but the best for the upcoming season.

"Last but not least, I would like to thank the 49ers Faithful for your unwavering support. From day one you have always been in my corner and I can't thank you enough for the love you've shown for the kid from down under. Signing off, your mate, number 38."

Hayne sighed with the 49ers last year, appearing in eight games. He compiled 17 rushing attempts for 52 yards, he also returned eight punts for 76 yards. The 28-year-old back bounced between the practice squad and active roster as he attempted to learn the NFL game.

"We would like to thank Jarryd for his contributions to the San Francisco 49ers organization and our community over the last year," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "Jarryd is a tremendous example of what can happen when you commit to a goal and do everything in your power to make it a reality. He earned the right to wear a 49ers uniform and compete alongside the best in the game. We fully support Jarryd's decision to pursue another dream -- representing the Fiji Rugby Sevens team in this summer's Olympic games. We look forward to watching him in Rio and wish him continued success."

Hayne flashed promise in space last preseason, but never found footing when games counted. Hayne struggled in restricted space out of the backfield and fumbled several times early on special teams.

It would have been interesting to see Hayne in new coach Chip Kelly's system, which thrives on getting playmakers in space. Alas, the chance to chase an Olympic dream was too much for the Australian star to pass up.

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