(Reuters) - Hines Ward, the Pittsburgh Steelers' all-time leading wide receiver, announced he will retire from the National Football League (NFL) after 14 seasons, the team said on Tuesday.
Ward spent his entire career in Pittsburgh and is the team's all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29).
"I'm officially retiring as a Pittsburgh Steeler," a tearful Ward said at a news conference.
"To my team mates, I want to thank you guys for the great memory, the times we hung together when no one thought we would, for the great times we shared in our victories, the support we had for each other in our losses and for having each other's back at all times. I will truly miss you guys."
Informed by the Steelers last month that he would be released ahead of the 2012 NFL season, Ward decided to retire rather than join another team.
The Korean-born receiver, who was named to four Pro Bowls, is the eighth NFL player to reach 1,000 career receptions and joins Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only two players to post 1,000 career catches and win multiple Super Bowls.
Ward, selected by Pittsburgh in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft, was named the most valuable player of the Super Bowl when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in the NFL's title game in 2006. He also won a Super Bowl in 2009.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)