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Atlanta Falcons release return specialist Devin Hester

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Devin Hester's run with the Atlanta Falcons is over.

The team on Tuesday announced that the veteran return man and receiver has been released.

It's no major surprise. Set to turn 34 in November, Hester was an obvious bubble candidate after spending most of last season on IR Boomerang with a toe injury. He returned in Week 13 to record 269 return yards over the final five games of the year, but failed to record a catch.

Hester's toe required surgery after the campaign and forced him to miss most of the offseason, a setback that didn't help his chances heading into training camp.

"Of course we made a move today with Devin Hester, releasing Devin, and we appreciate all of Devin's contributions over the last couple years. A fine individual," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "He passed his physical, and it was a football decision for us in the very end.

"Obviously there are business moves when we make a move like we did with Devin, but that wasn't what was directing our other potential acquisitions, not at all."

Although his best days could be behind him, Hester has no plans to retire, a source informed of his thinking told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. Along with former Falcons teammate Roddy White, who, according to Rapoport, has been in contact with a few NFL teams and wants to play in 2016, Hester likely will be looking to land with a new team quickly.

The three-time All-Pro was a difference-maker with the Falcons in 2014 after operating as an electric return man during his nine seasons with the Chicago Bears. Hester holds the NFL record for return touchdowns (20) and punt return scores (14), but the Pro Bowler might be close to retirement after losing his role with the Falcons.

Hester's roster spot became especially tenuous after the team signed wideout Mohamed Sanu and drafted receiver Devin Fuller, with the latter offering skills as a return man. Fuller will compete with running back Tevin Coleman and pass-catcher Eric Weems for starting return-man duties.

Hester, meanwhile, has enjoyed a sensational career, but this could be the end. As Gregg Rosenthal noted in his list of potential veteran cuts -- which included Hester -- training camp marks "a time of optimism around the NFL, and a time of anxiety for many players." Hester is just the first of many big-name releases set to flood the market over the next month-plus.

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