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Brett Favre not the only pro athlete to stay one season — or more — too long.

Brett Favre says if he had a chance to do it all over again, he would do the same thing. But the quarterback's final NFL season with the Jets after 16 Hall of Fame-worthy seasons with the Packers went out with a whimper, not a bang. The numbers of Favre's final season were not totally embarrassing. He threw 22 touchdown passes and led the Jets to a 9-7 record. But he also threw 22 interceptions (including nine in the final five games as the Jets went 1-4 and missed the playoffs). Favre joins the list of players who played a year or two too long. It's like painting the Mona Lisa then deciding to draw a mustache on her at the last second. Here's a look at great players whose careers ended on a downer.

Willie Mays

Whenever people think about an athlete playing one year too many, they bring up Mays ending his career by falling down with the New York Mets in 1973. In his final season, the 42-year-old had more strikeouts (47) than hits (44) and batted .211 in 66 games.

Joe Namath

Broadway Joe's knees were shot when he landed with the Rams in 1977. He played only four games, going 2-2 with three touchdown passes and five interceptions.

Johnny Unitas

After playing 17 seasons in Baltimore and becoming arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, Johnny U tried to play a final season in San Diego. He started four games, winning once while throwing three touchdown passes and seven interceptions, and completing 45 percent of his passes.

O.J. Simpson

In nine seasons with the Bills, the Juice became one of the best running backs in history. His career ended back home in San Francisco in two nondescript seasons with the 49ers. In 23 games, Simpson averaged 46 yards a game; he averaged 91 with the Bills. Of course, Simpson's biggest issues aren't that he waited too long to retire; they're what he has done with all his free time in retirement.

Tony Dorsett

Geez, did you even remember that the Cowboys' star running back didn't finish his career in Dallas? Dorsett played one final season in 1988 with the Broncos, carrying the ball 181 times for 703 yards and five touchdowns. Those numbers were respectable, but this was a guy who rushed for 1,000 yards in eight of his first nine seasons, and the season he didn't was the strike year, when he played only nine games.

Michael Jordan

MJ is remembered for two things: being the greatest basketball player who has ever lived and for coming out of retirement and looking like the shell of his former self. Jordan was out of the NBA for three seasons when he returned to the Wizards in 2001-02 at age 38. He averaged 22.9 and 20 points in his final two seasons, not bad for a mortal but his worst seasons as a pro. Worse than that, he was embarrassed defensively nightly by players he would've owned in his prime.

Steve Carlton

He was so good that his nickname was simply "Lefty," as if to say he might have been the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history. But after racking up 318 victories in 22 seasons with the Cards and Phils, Carlton spent the final two years of his career bouncing from the Phillies to the Giants to the White Sox to the Indians to the Twins, winning 11 games with his final four teams.

Babe Ruth

The greatest baseball player of the 20th century was a Yankees legend, but the ending of his career was simply sad. He fizzled out in the odd uniform of the Boston Braves, playing 28 games and hitting .181 with six homers in 72 at-bats before calling it quits.

Franco Harris

The Steelers legend held on for one more season in an attempt to break Jim Brown's career rushing record. Let go by Pittsburgh, Harris signed with Seattle. He rushed for 170 yards in eight games, falling 192 yards short of Brown.

Dale Murphy

It was weird when Murphy traded his Braves uniform for one from the Phillies. He had 18 homers and 81 RBIs with Philadelphia in 1991. But then he hung for two more years, the last with the Rockies, when he batted a paltry .143 with no homers and seven RBIs in 26 games.

Nuts for NASCAR

Wonder what cities are the most crazy for the Daytona 500? These are the average Nielsen ratings for the past 10 Daytona 500s. Each ratings point represents 1 percent of the area's estimated number of households with TVs.

1. Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.; Asheville, N.C. 23.8

2. Greensboro-High Point- Winston-Salem, N.C. 22.4

3. Orlando-Daytona Beach- Melbourne 20.0

4. Charlotte, N.C.19.6

5. Knoxville, Tenn.19.4

6. Indianapolis18.4

7. Jacksonville 17.8

8. Dayton, Ohio 17.6

9. Nashville 17.3

10. Richmond- Petersburg, Va. 16.5

These are the average number of households tuned into the past 10 Daytona 500s.

1. New York 326,000

2. Atlanta 289,000

3. Los Angeles 277,000

4. Philadelphia 266,000

5. Orlando-Daytona Beach- Melbourne 249,000

6. Chicago 233,000

7. Tampa-St. Petersburg 223,000

8. Washington218,000

9. Greenville-Spartanburg- Asheville 195,000

10. Charlotte 190,000

Team of the day

Thursday's featured staff writer Alan Muir's picks for the 2010 Canadian Olympic hockey team, and his roster does not include Lightning stars Vinny Lecavalier or Marty St. Louis. Muir's centers are Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton and Mike Richards. His wings are Jeff Carter, Jarome Iginla, Dany Heatley, Rick Nash, Simon Gagne, Patrick Marleau, Brendan Morrow and Shane Doan. His 13th forward is Marc Savard. Muir's roster also does not include former Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle, who entering Thursday was fourth among NHL defensemen in scoring.

ESPN college football schedule

ESPN has released its Labor Day and Thursday night schedule for next season. The Labor Day game is a big one in these parts: Florida State hosts Miami. FSU also makes a Thursday night appearance Oct. 22 when it travels to North Carolina. The schedule:

Sept. 3: South Carolina at N.C. State, 7 p.m.

Labor Day: Miami at Florida State, 8 p.m.

Sept. 10: Clemson at Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 17: Georgia Tech at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 24: Ole Miss at South Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 1: Colorado at West Virginia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 8: Nebraska at Missouri, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 22: Florida State at North Carolina, 8 p.m.

Oct. 29: North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 5: Virginia Tech at East Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 19: Colorado at Oklahoma State, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 26: Texas Tech at Texas A&M, 8 p.m.

Dec. 3: Oregon State at Oregon, 9 p.m.

Two Saturday games worth noting:

Sept. 12: USC at Ohio State, 8 p.m.

Sept. 19: Texas Tech at Texas, 8 p.m. on ESPN sibling ABC

Brett Favre not the only pro athlete to stay one season — or more — too long. 02/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 12, 2009 9:46pm]
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