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Dungy retires after seven seasons in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Dungy has retired after seven years as coach of the Indianapolis Colts, saying this was the right moment.

"These seven years have been better than I could ever have imagined," Dungy, the only black coach to win a Super Bowl, said at a news conference Monday. "I just have to thank everyone."

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He will be replaced by associate head coach Jim Caldwell.

Dungy, 53, has spent the past five years debating whether to leave football to spend more time with his family. He said he and his wife discussed the decision.

"We just felt this was the right time," Dungy said. "Don't shed any tears for me. I got to live a dream most people don't get to live."

Dungy is the Colts' franchise leader in victories. He went 85-27 in the regular season and 7-6 in the playoffs, including the victory over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI.

"You don't always get to go out on top," Dungy said, "and it's hard to go out on top."

The plan to have Caldwell replace Dungy as the Colts' coach was put in place last year when the coach pondered retirement. Caldwell joined Dungy's staff in Tampa Bay in 2001, then moved with Dungy to the Colts in 2002 and was the quarterbacks coach. A year ago, Caldwell was elevated to associate head coach though he continued to coach Peyton Manning and Jim Sorgi.

"He is ready, he's more than ready," Dungy said. "He's going to do a great job."

Dungy's decision comes a little more than a week after the Colts were eliminated from the playoffs. He spoke to several of his players Monday, including Manning.

"That's the tough part," Dungy said. "That's been the emotionally draining part of today."

He has spent the past five years debating whether to leave football, each year taking about a week to meet with his family, which now lives in Tampa, Fla.

"I'm going to be a Colt forever," Dungy said, adding that he plans to still spend quite a bit of time in Indianapolis.

Dungy has always listed his priorities as faith, family and football, and returned to coach in 2008 when the Colts opened the new Lucas Oil Stadium only after team owner Jim Irsay agreed to let Dungy use a private jet to commute home.

The decision ends a tenure in Indianapolis during which Dungy led the Colts to the playoffs all seven seasons, winning five division titles and appearing in two AFC title games.

But, his teams were also eliminated from the playoffs four times without winning a game, including the past two seasons after winning the Super Bowl -- prompting some to speculate that Dungy's indecision may have hurt the Colts' focus.

Dungy also spent six seasons in Tampa Bay, rejuvenating a moribund franchise and turning it into a perennial Super Bowl contender in the late 1990s and the early part of this decade. He left Tampa with a career record of 54-42 in the regular season becoming the winningest coach in franchise history there, too, and got the Buccaneers to the 1999 NFC Championship Game.

He's the only coach in NFL history to produce six straight 12-win seasons and 10 consecutive playoff appearances.

Dungy's career, which includes an all-time league-high average of 10.7 regular-season wins, also included tragedy. In December 2005, his son, James, committed suicide while attending school in Tampa. He left the Colts for one game, then received the game ball from his players after they made a goal-line stand to beat Arizona in the season-finale.

The Colts' season ended two weeks later with a shocking loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.

Dungy always said he intended to retire by the time he turned 50, but hung around longer because he enjoyed the game and the Colts players.

But his family priorities won out this time. His son, Eric, will be a high school senior in the fall, and those close to him thought Dungy wanted to accompany his son on college visits.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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