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Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis yearns for one last hurrah

Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis center celebrates with victory lap around field after an NFL wild card playoff football

Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis, center, celebrates with a victory lap around the field after an NFL wild card playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, in Baltimore. Lewis has said he will retire at the end of the season, and the Ravens won 24-9. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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Updated: February 21, 2013 6:38AM



Ray Lewis has the opportunity that Brian Urlacher undoubtedly wishes he had.

He has a chance to go out a champion.

While the future of the longtime middle linebacker and face of the Bears franchise is in doubt, Lewis, a future Hall of Famer like Urlacher, is one victory away from playing in the second Super Bowl of his illustrious 17-year career.

Lewis, who will retire after this season, and the Ravens play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough, Mass., on Sunday. Lewis’ rousing return from a torn triceps this postseason has helped spur on the Ravens, who dramatically rallied to defeat Peyton ­Manning and the Denver Broncos in the divisional round last week.

Lewis is literally playing every game like it’s his last.

“The greatest thing you can ever be remembered for is the impact and things that you had on other people,” said Lewis, who led a dominant Ravens defense to a Super Bowl victory in 2001. “With all of the men that I’ve been around, to one day look back here and listen to men say, ‘He was one of the people who helped changed my life,’ is probably one of the greatest legacies to be remembered for.”

Lewis’ legacy always will include the shadowy time he was indicted on murder and aggravated-assault charges after the fatal stabbings of two men at a Super Bowl party in Atlanta in January 2000.

But Lewis’ public image has ­recovered since then. A lot.

On the field, Lewis’ image has never changed. He’s still regarded as a menacingly powerful force and intimidator at linebacker. He will go down as one of the best to play the game, not just his position.

“I’ve always said … it’s really a pleasure to play against him,” Brady said of the two-time NFL defensive player of the year. “He’s really been so consistent over the years and durable and tough.

“He’s really a playmaker for them, so they give him an opportunity to make those plays. You see when he makes a play, their whole sideline gets really amped up. You always have to know where No. 52 is at.”

With their high-tempo offense, Brady and the Patriots are favored. But Lewis and the Ravens seem to have the intangibles coming off their remarkable comeback against the Broncos in Denver. The Ravens tied the game on a 70-yard bomb from maligned quarterback Joe Flacco to receiver Jacoby Jones in the final 30 seconds, then won 38-35 in double overtime.

The return of Lewis, who played in only six regular-season games, has undoubtedly helped on the field.

There might even be extra motivation to play for Lewis.

“It is a different focus that we have, and they know that the ­bottom line is, that after this year, no ­matter what happens, this will be my last time putting on a ­uniform,” he said. “It brings a different focus on a different brotherhood of why you fight now.

“You always have to ask yourself, ‘How can you top the moment of hearing those famous words?’ And that is, ‘Ravens have won the Super Bowl.’ When you play the game, that’s what you play for. You play and hope that one day you hear those words. That’s what I’m trying to get this team to go back and hear one more time.’’



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