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Bears' Azumah retires due to hip, neck pain

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (March 23, 2006) -- Bears cornerback Jerry Azumah retired because of neck and hip pain the past two seasons, ending a seven-year career with Chicago in which he made the Pro Bowl in 2003.

The 28-year-old Azumah missed most of the preseason after minor hip surgery and lost his starting job to Pro Bowl selection Nathan Vasher in the final year of his contract.

"This has been a great ride," he said during a news conference. "It's nothing to cry about or hold my head down to. Just looking at everything I accomplished and achieved, being here with the Bears and how they've embraced me, has been tremendous."

Azumah had a career-high 92 tackles in 2002. He had 90 tackles, a team-leading four interceptions and his lone Pro Bowl appearance -- as a kickoff returner -- the following season.

He missed the first four games of 2004 while recovering from neck surgery, and had the hip procedure in training camp last summer. He appeared in 15 regular-season games, playing primarily in nickel situations, and totaled 45 tackles while averaging 22 yards on kickoff returns.

Hip pain was a constant problem, and he injured his neck during a playoff game this season against Carolina. Azumah underwent more invasive hip surgery two months ago.

"I knew I'd be playing in pain," Azumah said. "That was what was understood. I'd be playing with some pain, they'd go in and clean it out and would get me better so I wouldn't miss the season. ... I decided to play until, basically, the wheels fell off."

Azumah's neck also bothered him during the season. He said his hip is fine now and dared reporters to race him in the 40-yard dash.

"My body was talking to me," Azumah said. "I feel like I could go out there and perform at a high level -- not the Pro Bowl level I was at. I need to take a different road in life."

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