49ers LB Patrick Willis to retire

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

As expected,San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Williswill retire from football Tuesday, the team announced.

"On behalf of the entire San Francisco 49ers organization, my family, and our Faithful fans, I would like to thank Patrick for everything he has brought to this team and our community," 49ers CEO Jed York said in a statement. "Some of the greatest memories in the history of our franchise have come from his passion, dedication and sacrifice.

"Patrick epitomizes everything you could ever want in a San Francisco 49er. What he brought to this team goes much further than his athletic abilities. His leadership and infectious love for the game helped propel this team. I consider myself very lucky to have grown up around some of the greatest players in the history of this franchise, and Patrick has certainly secured his place among that elite group of men. As a member of our family, Patrick holds a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to supporting him as he moves on from his playing career."

Willis, 30, appeared in just six games in 2014 before undergoing season-ending toe surgery. After being placed on injured reserve in November, he acknowledged that the chronic injury to his left big toe had been hampering him for years.

Willis made no indication at the time that he was considering retirement, saying he had "five or six years left in my body. ... When I come back, I will be bigger and better than I was."

But Willis indicated in a tweet late Monday that he was ready to move on.

Willis has played his entire eight-year career in San Francisco and was one of the top players on the 49ers teams that reached three consecutive NFC championship games from 2011 to 2013.

He was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven NFL seasons. The only defensive players since the league's 1970 merger with longer streaks to start their careers were Lawrence Taylor (10) and Derrick Thomas (nine).

ESPN.com 49ers reporter Paul Gutierrez contributed to this report.

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