By Michael Terrill @MichaelTerrill on July 22, 2014
There are some athletes who retire when they know they are no longer capable of playing the game they love so much. Then there are the athletes who retire but simply can’t handle life without being able to play sports professionally. Here’s a look at 15 star athletes who retired only to come back at some point during their career.
Andy Pettitte retired in 2010 in which he missed the entire 2011 season. In 2012, he decided he would like to return to baseball and continue to play for the New York Yankees. He played two more seasons before calling it quits for good. Pettitte won five World Series titles with the Yankees.
After the Yankees lost to the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series, Roger Clemens briefly retired. It didn’t take long for the seven-time Cy Young Award winner to realize that he had made a mistake. Prior to the 2004 season, Clemens signed with his hometown team, the Houston Astros. He retired again in 2007.
Although Allen Iverson never officially retired during the 2000s, there were several occasions in which he would leave the team he was currently playing for due to personal reasons. However, he always managed to come back, even if it was with a different team. For instance, Iverson played just three games with the Grizzlies in 2009 before he left. He then returned to play in 25 games with the 76ers.
Mario Lemieux retired in 1997 after he continued to have problems that stemmed from the radiation to treat his Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as, back problems. Lemieux returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2000 as an owner-player. He would play five more seasons before retiring for a second and final time.
After Lance Armstrong retired from cycling in 2005, he decided to take a few years off from the sport. It was in 2009 when he returned to competitive cycling with the Astana team. It was during this time when Armstrong was found to be using performance-enhancing drugs, which tarnished his assumed reputable career.
Boxer George Foreman had a religious epiphany after a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977. He wouldn’t step back into the ring for another 10 years. During this time, he became an ordained Christian minister and devoted his life to religion. At 45 years old, Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer to become the oldest Heavyweight Champion in boxing history.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. briefly retired in 2007 following a win against Light Welterweight Champion Ricky Hatton. Mayweather said that the match was grueling and Hatton had been his toughest opponent to date, which was partially why he retired. During his short retirement, Mayweather concentrated on his boxing promotion company. He would return to the sport in 2009 with a win against Juan Manuel Marquez.
Deion Sanders retired from the NFL in 2001. However, it was only a year later when he contemplated a return to football. He wanted to play for the Raiders, but it was the Chargers that claimed his rights and placed him on the reserve-retired list. It wasn’t until 2004 when Sanders officially came out of retirement to play for the Ravens, mostly to suit up with Ray Lewis. Sanders retired permanently in 2006.
After announcing that he had contracted HIV, Magic Johnson retired from basketball in 1991. However, the fans voted him into the All-Star game that season, which Johnson eventually decided to play in, and he won MVP honors. He also played on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team in which the “Dream Team” won gold. Johnson wanted to return to basketball immediately, but it wasn’t until the ’95-’96 season that he actually made his return to the NBA.
To the shock of many, tennis great Bjorn Borg retired at the height of his fame in 1983. He created the Bjorn Borg fashion label, which is incredibly successful throughout the world, most notably in Sweden. He attempted a comeback in 1991 but it failed miserably. Borg couldn’t win any matches, which led to his permanent retirement in 1993.
Arguably the greatest soccer player of all time, Pele came out of retirement in 1975 to play with the New York Cosmos. Like what many international soccer stars have tried to do since, Pele wanted to popularize the sport in the United States. In his final match of his career, the Cosmos took on Brazilian club team Santos, the team Pele played 19 years for. Pele played the first half with the Cosmos and the second half with Santos.
Michael Phelps has done for competitive swimming what Tiger Woods did for golf: made it popular among the youth. After 22 Olympic medals (18 gold), Phelps retired from the sport in 2012. The 29-year-old has declared that he will return to swimming, with the 2016 Summer Olympics being the leading reason.
In 1967, the legendary Muhammad Ali was forced into retirement by the New York State Boxing Commission after he stated he would not enlist in the U.S. Army due to religious convictions. This was of course during the Vietnam War. He returned to boxing in 1970 where he knocked out Jerry Quarry in three rounds. But, he didn’t regain the Heavyweight title until 1974.
In 1993, basketball great Michael Jordan retired from the NBA. There were numerous reasons for the retirement, most notably the death of his father and exhaustion. The following year, Jordan played for a minor league baseball team in the Chicago White Sox organization. He unretired in 1995 and returned to the NBA to lead the Bulls to three straight titles. Jordan retired a second time in 2001, but he unretired again to play for the Wizards.
One of the most scrutinized athletes to retire and then come out of retirement is Brett Favre. After the 2007 NFL season, the legendary quarterback told the Green Bay Packers that he called it quits. During the summer of 2008, Favre wanted to rejoin the team, but the Packers had already moved on with Aaron Rodgers. Favre continued to play for several more years with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings.
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