Favre's hometown quiet, respectful on day of his retirement
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Magnolia trees swayed and palm fronds rustled in a cool wind along the stately iron gateway to Brett Favre's massive farm, set in rolling pine-covered hills just west of this southern Mississippi town.
There were no makeshift signs honoring his Hall of Fame quality career, no groups of curious onlookers or lines of cars parked on the edge of the rural, four-lane highway that runs past his driveway.
It was quiet, and locals showed little interest in disturbing one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks Tuesday, the day he announced his retirement. They knew that's the way the longtime Green Bay Packer would want it.
"In Green Bay, there are days up there when he can't pump gas" without drawing a crowd, said Paul Calhoun, Favre's friend and a veterinarian who cares for the quarterback's dogs. "Here, it's not like that. He can go anywhere and do anything he wants to here.
"I wish him the best and he'll be fine."
For his part, Favre spent Monday, a historic one for the NFL, trying to go about his day as normally as possible. A woman who works on the 460-acre property -- with a calligraphy "F" molded into the black iron front gate -- said the quarterback had accompanied his youngest daughter, Breleigh, on a field trip to Jackson, the state capital.
Closer to town, residents said they were saddened by the thought of no longer spending Sundays watching the freewheeling quarterback whose backyard, win-at-all-costs style they'd grown to love since he played his college ball here at Southern Mississippi.
"I think it's a sad day for Hattiesburg," said Louis Swarts, owner of Big Buck Sports, where Favre and his brother-in-law sometimes buy hunting gear.
On a desk in Swarts' office, balancing on a stack of papers, was a Southern Miss Golden Eagles football marked by Favre's unmistakable signature and the No. 4.
"Where I sit from, I hated to see him retire, but knowing his other interests and what he feels for his family -- he enjoys staying out on his farm, they've got deer out at their place, he loves being on his tractor -- no one should second-guess what he's done," Swarts said. "The longevity of his career and the level at which he has played, he's just a winner."
Favre, who grew up in the small town of Kiln not far from Mississippi's Gulf Coast, played for Southern Miss from 1987-90, surprisingly rising to starter during his freshman year.
Fans here loved him in part because he won, but also because he often did so with an ad-lib style that was exciting to watch.
"You never knew what to expect," Swarts said. "He was always doing something that was different."
Southern Miss retired Favre's No. 4 in 1993, making him just one of two Golden Eagles with that honor.
Favre played in the NFL for 17 seasons, so long that people like Jordan Toups, a senior at nearby Oak Grove High School, only knew Favre as a Packer, but looked up to him just the same.
"At first I was in disbelief, because for the past couple of years he was saying he was going to retire, but he didn't," said Toups, who was a year behind Favre's oldest daughter, Brittany, at Oak Grove. "When I found out it was actually true I was kind of disappointed. I mean, I've looked up to the guy. He's a legend. He's one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game."
Toups was working at Bop's Frozen Custard, where employees sometimes look out the drive-through window to see Favre or his wife looking back at them.
"It's kind of crazy to know that one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game lives right down the road from you," Toups said. "I think he still has some gas in the tank, but I guess it's like they all say: go out on top."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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BRETT FAVRE SAGA: OVER
After pushing and pushing to keep playing either in Green Bay or elsewhere, Brett Favre's storied career will continue in 2008. The unretired quarterback has been traded by the Packers to the Jets.
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