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Ten memorable athlete "unretirements"

March 19, 2015
Mar
19

Michael Jordan John Ruthroff/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Jordan

Retired: 1993, 1998, 2003

On March 18, 1995 -- 20 years ago! -- Michael Jordan and the Bulls announced that he would rejoin the team and play in the following day's nationally televised game against the Pacers.

Jordan went 7-for-28 from the field, scoring 19 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing six rebounds. He would go on to lead Chicago to three additional championships (1996-98) as well as an NBA-record 72 regular-season wins in the 1995-96 season.

Here are other notable athletes who called it quits only to come back to give their sport another go:

Lance ArmstrongPatrickKovarik/AFP/Getty Images

Lance Armstrong

Retired: 2005, 2011

Armstrong retired in 2005 after a record seventh consecutive Tour de France victory, though it would eventually be stripped because of his steroid scandal. On Sept. 9, 2008 he announced he would return, but would never finish first again (he finished third and 23rd in the 2009 and 2010 Tour de France races). Armstrong left the cycling world again in 2011 while facing a federal investigation into doping allegations.

ClemensDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

Roger Clemens

Retired: 2003, 2006, 2007

"The Rocket" retired from the big leagues a few times. He first retired in 2003 after six Cy Young Awards and one World Series win with the New York Yankees. Clemens came back in 2004 to play for the Houston Astros and captured his seventh Cy Young. In 2006, he retired again before returning again for another stint with the Yankees. Clemens would finally hang up the cleats for good in 2007, at the age of 45.

Brett FavreJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Brett Favre

Retired: 2008, 2009, 2011

It probably isn't easy for any player to give up playing their respective sport, but it seemed especially hard for Favre. No. 4 formally retired in 2008 only to come back a few months later. But the Green Bay Packers were ready to move on with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, so they traded Favre to the New York Jets that year. He played for one season before retiring again on Feb. 11, 2009. But Favre wasn't done yet. The winningest quarterback in NFL history came out of retirement again a few months later to play for the Minnesota Vikings until finally retiring for good in 2011.

Foreman & MoorerGetty Images

George Foreman

Retired: 1977, 1997

Foreman came back 10 years after his retirement in 1977 at the age of 38. In 1994, nearly two decades after he last held a title, Foreman beat Michael Moorer for the WBA, IBA and lineal heavyweight championships. This made Foreman a rather improbable champion at the age of 45.

Magic JohnsonDavid Madison/Getty Images

Magic Johnson

Retired: 1991, 1996

Johnson's circumstances are unique among the athletes on this list. Before the 1991-1992 NBA season, he found out he tested positive for HIV and announced in a news conference that he would retire immediately. In 2011, Johnson told Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, "If I knew what I know now, I wouldn't have retired," referring to the misconception at that time that he could spread the disease through minor contact. In 1995, at the age of 36, Johnson returned to the Lakers and averaged 14.6 points, 6.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game before retiring permanently after that season.

LemieuxGetty ImagesNeither Father Time nor Hodgkin lymphoma could keep Mario Lemieux off the ice.

Mario Lemieux

Retired: 1997, 2006

Super Mario retired from the Penguins after the 1997 NHL playoffs but returned to the ice in 2000 and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Then, after several health setbacks and the cancellation of the 2005 season, Lemieux retired for good in 2006.

Micheal PhelpsPatrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Phelps

Retired: 2012

After the 2012 Olympics in London, the most decorated athlete in Olympics history took a break from the pool and retired from swimming. The 22-time Olympic medalist came back in 2014 with plenty of time to prepare for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Deion Sanders George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Deion Sanders

Retired: 2001, 2005

Sanders, who lived up to his "Prime Time" nickname during his several successful seasons with the Cowboys, retired in 2001 after a one-year stint with the Washington Redskins. In 2004, Sanders returned to the gridiron after signing a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens. That season, Sanders recorded five interceptions before retiring again.

Ricky WilliamsGregory Shamus/Getty Images

Ricky Williams

Retired: 2004, 2012

Facing a four-game suspension in 2004 for violating the NFL's drug policy, Williams shockingly announced his retirement. He returned in 2005, then left to spend a season in the Canadian Football League in 2006. Williams found his way back into the NFL in 2007 to play for his former team, the Miami Dolphins, until 2010. In 2011, Williams played for the Ravens before officially calling it a career again. Despite bouncing around a few times, Williams tallied 10,009 yards and 74 rushing touchdowns in 11 NFL seasons.

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Brett Favre and the Packers seem to be forming their own mutual admiration society these days, as the former quarterback continues his reconciliation with the team that made him a legend. Favre went so far as to say that Aaron Rodgers will ''shatter'' his many records. Rodgers is an exceptional quarterback, but he'll have a long way to go before catching Favre -- his later years may have been more drama than production, but Favre played at a high level for a very long time.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

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We haven't talked about Brett Favre in a while (this is not a bad thing: there was a time where it seemed like all we talked about was Brett Favre), but it seems like the Packers are ready to embrace him again. Packers CEO and president Mark Murphy wants Favre ''back in the family,'' a sign that the relationship between the two sides may be thawing. It'd be odd for the Packers and Favre not to reconcile -- he's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and he's tied to Green Bay inseperably. Would you put Favre in your top five quarterbacks? Submit your rankings!

NFL's greatest quarterbacks

Troy Aikman

Troy Aikman

Dallas Cowboys (1989-2000)
61.5% completion
32,942 yards
165 TD, 141 INT
94-71 W-L
3-0 Super Bowl record

Sammy Baugh

Sammy Baugh

Washington Redskins (1937-52)
56.5% completion
21,886 yards
187 TD, 203 INT
Played before SB era

Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw

Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-83)
51.9% completion
27,989 yards
210 TD, 210 INT
107-51 W-L
4-0 Super Bowl record

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

New England Patriots (2000-present)
63.7% completion
44,806 yards
334 TD, 123 INT
136-39 W-L
3-2 Super Bowl record

Drew Brees

Drew Brees

San Diego Chargers (2001-2005)
New Orleans Saints (2006-present)
65.6% completion
45,919 yards
324 TD, 165 INT
99-70 W-L
1-0 Super Bowl record

John Elway

John Elway

Denver Broncos (1983-98)
56.9% completion
51,475 yards
300 TD, 226 INT
148-82-1
2-3 Super Bowl record

Brett Favre

Brett Favre

Atlanta Falcons (1991)
Green Bay Packers (1992-2007)
New York Jets (2008)
Minnesota Vikings (2009-2010)
62% completion
71,838 yards
508 TD, 336 INT
186-112 W-L
1-1 Super Bowl record

Dan Fouts

Dan Fouts

San Diego Chargers (1973-87)
58.8% completion
43,040 yards
254 TD, 242 INT
86-84-1 W-L

Otto Graham

Otto Graham

Cleveland Browns (1946-55)
55.8% completion
23,584 yards
174 TD, 135 INT
57-13-1 W-L
Played before SB Era

Bob Griese

Bob Griese

Miami Dolphins (1967-1980)
56.2% completion
25,092 yards
192 TD, 173 INT
92-56-3 W-L
2-1 Super Bowl record

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011)
Denver Broncos (2012-present)
68.6% completion
59,487 yards
436 TD, 209 INT
139-67-0 W-L
1-1 Super Bowl record

Dan Marino

Dan Marino

Miami Dolphins (1983-99)
59.4% completion
61,361 yards
420 TD, 252 INT
147-93 W-L
0-1 Super Bowl record

Joe Montana

Joe Montana

San Francisco 49ers (1979-92)
Kansas City Chiefs (1993-94)
63.2% completion
40,551 yards
273 TD, 139 INT
117-47 W-L
4-0 Super Bowl record

Warren Moon

Warren Moon

Houston Oilers (1984-93)
Minnesota Vikings (1994-96)
Seattle Seahawks (1997-98)
Kansas City Chiefs (1999-2000)
58.4% completion
49,325 yards
291 TD, 233 INT
102-101 W-L

Joe Namath

Joe Namath

New York Jets (1965-76)
L.A. Rams (1977)
50.1% completion
27,633 yards
173 TD, 220 INT
62-63-4 W-L
1-0 Super Bowl record

Phil Simms

Phil Simms

New York Giants (1979-93)
55.4% completion
33,462 yards
199 TD, 157 INT
95-64 W-L
2-0 Super Bowl record

Bart Starr

Bart Starr

Green Bay Packers (1956-71)
57.4% completion
24,718 yards
152 TD, 138 INT
94-57-6 W-L
2-0 Super Bowl record

Roger Staubach

Roger Staubach

Dallas Cowboys (1969-79)
57% completion
22,700 yards
153 TD, 109 INT
85-29 W-L
2-2 Super Bowl record

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton

Minnesota Vikings (1961-66; 1972-78)
New York Giants (1967-71)
57% completion
47,003 yards
342 TD, 266 INT
124-109-6 W-L
0-3 Super Bowl record

Johnny Unitas

Johnny Unitas

Baltimore Colts (1956-72)
San Diego Chargers (1973)
54.6% completion
40,239 yards
290 TD, 253 INT
118-64-4 W-L
1-1 Super Bowl record

Steve Young

Steve Young

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1985-86)
San Francisco 49ers (1987-99)
64.3% completion
33,124 yards
232 TD, 107 INT
94-49 W-L
1-0 Super Bowl record

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On Friday, "First Take" debated Brett Favre saying that he played with the Vikings in 2010 because "the money was too good." Stephen A. Smith has a total problem with Favre's statement, saying it was selfish and all about Favre, but Skip Bayless has a different tack. What's your take?

Comment »

It's all fun and games until Jim Irsay sends Adam Vinatieri, Dwight Freeney, Jeff Saturday and a plane to Mississippi. With suggestions abounding that Peyton Manning may not be ready to start the regular season, Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted over the weekend that he was in Brett Favre's hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss.


Take a left at Albuquerque?

"Brad,I'm in Hattiesburg...is it right or left at the Firechief?" -- Jim Irsay on Twitter (@JimIrsay)

SportsNation

Who will hold the record?

If Favre stays retired, Manning needs just 110 touchdown passes to break his record. But is this slow recovery from neck surgery an indication that age may catch Manning first?

SportsNation

Meeting of the masters?

Manning and Favre in the same city would be a collision of two of the all-time greats. All-time great quarterbacks, sure, but also all-time great commercial stars.

SportsNation

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