Even when Osi Umenyiora was a Falcon for the past two seasons he would watch Giants games with his new teammates while openly rooting for his former ones.

"They would be looking at me like, 'Is this guy out of his mind?' '' Umenyiora said. "I just couldn't help myself. It was the Giant in me."

Umenyiora spent the first 10 years of his career -- and the final day of it -- as a Giant. He signed a one-day contract with the team so that he could retire as a member of the organization during a ceremony Wednesday.

"When it was time for me to leave and go to Atlanta I was excited about it, but once I got there I was like 'Dang!' '' Umenyiora said. "You miss everything. There is nothing like being a New York Giant."

Umenyiora could have had another chance to play in New York . . . but for the Jets. According to a league source, the Jets called him Tuesday to gauge his availability. Although no offer was made, Umenyiora told the team his playing days are over.

"I already know what it's like to play for another franchise and Atlanta was great, no doubt about that," Umenyiora said. "But for me it was either I was going to play for the Giants or I wasn't going to play football at all."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Umenyiora was a two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler. He finished his Giants career with 75 sacks (he added 10 more in Atlanta); only Hall of Famers Michael Strahan (141.5), Lawrence Taylor (132.5) and Leonard Marshall (79.5) had more with the franchise. He also had 5.5 sacks in 10 postseason games.

Umenyiora was often seen as Strahan's protégé, but he was also a mentor to Jason Pierre-Paul. He said he's been in touch with his fellow defensive end since the July 4 fireworks accident that cost Pierre-Paul his right index finger. "He's a truly dominant football player, I haven't seen one like him since Strahan honestly," Umenyiora said. "I think the team needs him, he needs this team. He has to come back and I think he will come back when he's strong."