Famous Athletes Who Decided Retirement Was Not for Them

Source: Brian Bahr / Allsport / Getty Images

Tom Brady had an eventful offseason following the 2021 season. Amid speculation and reports that he was retiring, Brady initially said he had not made a decision, then announced his retirement from the NFL. However, just 40 days later, the QB announced he would come back to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 23rd NFL season.

Knowing when to retire as a professional athlete is a difficult decision. Players must consider their families, their contracts, their desire to play, and the long term ramifications of a full season of wear and tear on their bodies. Walking away is a tough call, and Brady is one of many players who have made the decision to retire only to decide later on they want to keep playing.

To compile a list of notable athletes who came out of retirement, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a number of sources, including the Sports Reference family of sites, to find pro athletes who stepped away from their sport, then came back. The star athletes on this list are from different sports and have generally made successful comebacks.

This list is far from comprehensive, as dozens and dozens of athletes have retired then walked back their decision later. The players on this list have all retired for their own reasons – some had injury issues or severe illnesses that hampered their abilities, others stepped away to try their hand at something other than sports. Many players thought that their competitive fire had gone out, only to discover they had plenty left after announcing their retirement.

It can be difficult for an athlete to know exactly when is the right time to step away. Though some leave too early and want to come back to their sport, others leave too late. These players struggle and spend their last seasons as a shell of their former selves. 

Yet some players time it exactly right. These athletic legends walk away just before their skills decline – often winning one last title or earning a final All-Star game appearance before hanging it up for good. These are the athletes with the most memorable final seasons.

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