The animated veteran, who gained mass appeal in his later years thanks to an ever-present competitive fire and quick sense of humor, officially confirmed his retirement after Baltimore's 27-10 loss to the Bengals on Sunday. His last game produced three catches for 34 yards and, as expected, some intense jawing with a Bengals player more than a decade younger than Smith.
"A legacy is not what you give people, it's what you put inside people and also what they put inside of me," Smith said on the CBS broadcast as he exited the field. "There's a lot of guys I respect and I'm going to miss them. But at some point, it's gotta come to an end. I got a beautiful wife at home, Angie, and four kids that need their dad. And I need my kids. I'm going home to Charlotte to build my family. We got a new house we're going to build."
Smith was then asked what he would miss most about football.
"I know I'm not going to miss practice, I'll tell you that."
Smith seemed at peace with the decision. He previously told reporters that he was "89 percent" sure what he was going to do -- an homage to his jersey number and eventual decision. Smith is absolutely good enough to play another year in the NFL and the Ravens could certainly use his tenacity on offense. Alas, they will have to find another way. Smith will leave the game seventh on the all-time receiving yards list with 14,731 yards. He is 12th in receptions (1,031) and 25th in receiving touchdowns (81).
A third-round pick back in 2001 out of Utah, Smith never let anyone who thought he was too small (5-9) to be an NFL wide receiver forget about it. He never wanted to let the Panthers forget about releasing him either. Buoyed by that relentless drive, he carved out one of the greatest offensive careers in modern NFL history. His Hall of Fame consideration will be a fascinating debate as the time comes near.
"I enjoyed it," Smith told reporters after. "It's over, it's done. I know it's my time. Some people say can I play another year? I probably could. But what I'd lose, I'm not willing to risk."