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Eagles' Darren Sproles to retire at end of season

Darren Sproles is ready to hang up his cleats.

The Philadelphia Eagles announced Saturday the veteran running back and return specialist will retire from professional football at the end of the season.

"When I re-signed with the Eagles back in July, I knew it was going to be my last season, and now my body is telling me it's time to step away from the game," Sproles wrote in a letter, via the team's website. "It's time to call it a career. So when the season comes to an end, I'm going to officially retire from the National Football League. But I wanted to announce it today so that we can appreciate the moment together on Sunday. ...

"It's hard to put in words the emotion I will feel when I walk out of the tunnel one last time for a regular-season game at Lincoln Financial Field."

It will mark the end of a storied and improbable 15-year career. The 5-foot-6 Sproles, who is out for the rest of the season with a quad injury, will finish fifth all-time in all-purpose yards in NFL history. He holds the single-season record with 2,696 yards in 2011 with the Saints, which included career highs in receiving (710) and rushing (603).

A fourth-round pick out of Kansas State in 2005, Sproles spent the first six years of his career with the Chargers and established himself as one of the game's best kickoff returners before heading to New Orleans. Sean Payton and Drew Brees immediately utilized the diminutive back as an offensive Swiss Army knife for the next three years. His last six have come in Philly, where he became an All-Pro punt returner and won a Super Bowl.

"Looking back on my career, I think about the time I stood on the stage inside the RCA Dome getting measured for coaches and scouts at the 2005 NFL Scouting Combine," Sproles wrote. "When my height and weight were announced, I could hear laughing from the audience. I've always been short, it's not the first time I've been made fun of for it, but I started worrying that I might not get picked because of my size. I just needed one team to take a chance on me and I'm thankful for the Chargers.

"I'm proud that I was able to prove my doubters wrong. They told me that I wouldn't make it past a year in the NFL. Fifteen years later, I'm fifth all time in NFL history in career all-purpose yards. Look at the names who are above me on that list: Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith. To be part of such an outstanding group is an incredible honor. But it also goes to show that no matter what people say about you, you can still achieve great things if you believe in yourself and put in the work."

The three-time Pro Bowler tallied 3,552 rushing yards, while averaging 4.9 yards per carry, 553 receptions, 11,313 return yards and 64 touchdowns.

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