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TE Gonzalez bids Chiefs fans a fond farewell before leaving for Atlanta

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Atlanta-bound tight end Tony Gonzalez bid Kansas City farewell Tuesday and promised that when he retires from the NFL, it will be as a Chief.

"The only regrets I have are things I didn't do," said Gonzalez, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. "I really wish I could have been a part of something more special. I wanted to be a part of bringing a championship to this city.

"I'm going to go on record right now saying I'm going to retire as a Chief."

Gonzalez set up and paid for his own news conference at a downtown hotel to say goodbye to the city where he played for 12 years and became the most productive tight end in NFL history.

"I wanted to come face-to-face with everybody and (say goodbye) the right way," he said. "I grew up in Kansas City. I got here when I just turned 21. (Leaving) is going to be sad. It's going to be real sad. I've been able to play for some of the best fans in the NFL."

With more catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches than any other NFL tight end, Gonzalez is arguably the greatest offensive player the Chiefs have drafted and developed in their 50-year history. Although the team never won a playoff game during his career, Gonzalez ranks alongside Pro Football Hall of Famer Len Dawson and Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett as the most popular athletes to ever call Kansas City home.

"Even though we didn't win a playoff game, I would not trade it," Gonzalez said. "I would absolutely not trade it."

"I'm anxious, a little scared," he added about his move to the Falcons. "It's a little weird thinking I'm going to be an Atlanta Falcon -- just saying that. But change is good. It gives me a chance to go out there and prove myself. I'm looking forward to it."

Gonzalez said just coming to the hotel for the news conference reminded him how much Kansas City means to him.

"People are stopping me and saying, 'Congratulations. We're going to miss you. We wanted you to stay, but we understand,'" Gonzalez said.

The Falcons gave the rebuilding Chiefs their 2010 second-round draft pick in the trade for Gonzalez. Knowing he was probably nearing the end of his career, Gonzalez asked to be traded to a contender during the 2008 season while Kansas City was sinking to a 2-14 record.

"It's a positive situation," Gonzalez said. "The Chiefs get a high pick and I get an opportunity to play with a team that's solidified itself as a contender at this point. I think it's worked out for both sides."

Gonzalez said he had two very positive meetings with new Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley.

"I told them, 'Look, if I'm on this team, I'm going to give you guys 100 percent. If you do want to trade me, just let me know. I wouldn't be opposed to it,'" Gonzalez said. "I didn't ask for a trade, and they didn't come to me and say, 'Do you want a trade?'"

The Falcons made the playoffs last season behind rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and will be expected to make another run in what will be Gonzalez's 13th NFL season.

"I do feel new energy," Gonzalez said. "You have to. This is exciting. It's like being drafted all over again. I'm going out there with some great players, some guys who have had great success. So I've got to make sure we mesh, and that comes with work."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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