LaDainian Tomlinson's heart always has been in San Diego. So it was only fitting that his NFL career ended in the same place it began 11 years ago.
The running back signed a one-day contract with the Chargers Monday before officially announcing his retirement in a televised news conference from Chargers Park. Tomlinson, who spent the past two seasons with the Jets, finished fifth all-time in rushing yards (13,684) and second only to Emmitt Smith with 145 rushing touchdowns.
Accompanied by his wife, their two small children and his mother, Tomlinson spoke glowingly of his nine years with the team that drafted him fifth overall in 2001.
"I always felt in my heart that I was a Charger," said Tomlinson, who said he told team president/CEO Dean Spanos of his retirement plans a few weeks ago.
In his opening remarks, Spanos hinted that the team will retire Tomlinson's No. 21 jersey.
Tomlinson, who turns 33 Saturday, said he had opportunities to continue his career but thought it was time to retire. He said his children were "35 to 40 percent" of the reason behind his decision, but age and the mental toll of playing at a high level also were factors.
Tomlinson thanked the Jets and owner Woody Johnson for "two great years in New York; of chasing the dream, chasing that Super Bowl trophy." He said he plans to keep the tattoo of the Jets' logo on his right calf, which reads "2010 -- ''. All he has to do now is fill it in, he said. (Tomlinson has a tattoo of the Chargers' logo on his left calf.)
In two seasons with the Jets, he had 1,194 yards on 294 carries, seven touchdowns rushing and two receiving. He was named to five Pro Bowls and had 4,772 receiving yards and 17 scoring receptions. "Without question," Johnson said in a statement, "his next stop will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Jets coach Rex Ryan said that despite being at the end of his career, Tomlinson "could do it all" and "still had that great wiggle." Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn praised Tomlinson as a role model, calling him "an ambassador" of the game.
Although his "fire" for football still burns, don't expect him to pull a Brett Favre. "I'm happy with where I am today," he said, dismissing the idea he eventually will come out of retirement. "I have no regrets. So I don't anticipate ever coming back."
As bittersweet as it was, he seemed at peace with his decision. Using a line by his former teammate, the late Junior Seau, Tomlinson said with a smile: "I feel like I'm graduating."
Notes & quotes: The Jets waived LB Donovan Robinson.