TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay's A-Train has made his final run.
Six-time Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott announced his retirement after 12 seasons Thursday, saying goodbye to the NFL during a tearful news conference in a meeting room where the Buccaneers played a highlight film of some of his most memorable plays.
The Bucs all-time touchdown leader, who played at Purdue from 1992-95, spent the 2007 season on injured reserve with a neck problem that was not related to a career-threatening injury that required surgery in 2003. He held little hope for a return, but still had difficulty saying his career was over.
"Though mentally I feel like I can continue, physically I can't," he said. "The second injury to my neck will prevent me from playing football forever."
Flanked on a podium by his wife, coach Jon Gruden, general manager Bruce Allen and executive vice president Bryan Glazer, Alstott choked up on three different occasions while talking about how difficult it will be to not be around his teammates on a daily basis.
"If you needed a yard, Mike would get you two," said Glazer, one of the sons of Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer. "If you needed to grind out the game at the end, Mike was the man for you."
Arguably the most popular player in franchise history, Alstott was better known for bouncing off defenders and breaking tackles than as a traditional fullback whose job was to block for a featured runner.
He was selected to play in the Pro Bowl six consecutive seasons from 1997-2002, however his role in the offense diminished dramatically after Gruden arrived in Tampa Bay six seasons ago.
In 12 seasons, he rushed for 5,088 yards, second on the Bucs' career list. He also caught 305 passes for 2,284 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Glazer said 7,325 players have played since 1990. Alstott is the 18th during that span to play 11 or more seasons with one team and retire with that team.
Together with Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and former Bucs coach Tony Dungy, Alstott helped transform one of the NFL's worst franchises into a championship contender.
He entered the league as a second-round draft pick in 1996, and Glazer noted one of his two favorite Alstott moments came the following season when the fullback rumbled 31 yards for a touchdown that help the Bucs beat Detroit for their first playoff win in 18 years.
"It signified the beginning of a rebirth for this franchise," the team executive said, adding that his other favorite was Alstott's 2-yard touchdown run during Tampa Bay's victory over Oakland in the Super Bowl in January 2003.
"I lived in Chicago before we bought the Buccaneers, and I know how that town agonized over the fact that the great Walter Payton did not score a touchdown in its Super Bowl (victory)," Glazer said, turning toward Alstott. "I'm so happy that you had an opportunity to score a touchdown in this team's greatest time."
Alstott played down his personal accomplishments, instead stressing how gratifying it was to play with other outstanding players as part of a team that changed the perception of the franchise.
"We turned this into an elite organization," he said. "It's been a great ride, an unbelievable ride."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press