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Top 15 Legends That Didn’t Leave With Grace

There are a few fortunate athletes that had legendary careers and got to retire with a championship. Most minds immediately think of John Elway, who after winning his second Super Bowl, retired from football. Elway was not the last to finish a Hall of Fame career on such a high, as years later Jerome Bettis did the same when the Steelers captured the Super Bowl.

However, one thing that helps define some of the best players to play, is the longevity that helped them amass such ridiculous stats. You don’t get to throw for 70,000 yards in the NFL unless you’ve been a starting quarterback for over two decades.

When these athletes were on the top of their game, they may have been some of the best to ever suit up, but even the best fall sometime. Perhaps it's the competitive edge that put them at the top of their game for so long that prevents them from stepping away from the game when everyone else feels they should.

Some of these athletes may have gone on to have productive careers with new teams, but by burning bridges with their former franchise, they may always be looked at as an athlete that ended his career on a low.

No matter who your favorite athlete is, they only have a limited time to produce at the top of their game. Their bodies take a pounding and over time, they may be unable to survive the rigorous pace of a professional season. No matter what reason led to these athletes downfalls, these are 15 of the best athletes that did not leave with grace.

15 Brett Favre 

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

14 Steve Nash 

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

13 Martin Brodeur 

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

12 Todd Bertuzzi 

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

11 Karl Malone 

via chronicle.augusta.com

10 Jerry Rice 

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

9 Ray Rice 

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

8 Wes Welker 

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

7 Deion Sanders  

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

6 Pete Rose 

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

5 Troy Aikman 

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

4 Patrick Ewing 

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

3 Kobe Bryant 

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

2 Michael Jordan 

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

1 Peyton Manning 

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It's been quite a fall from Peyton over the last year. At the end of the last season, Peyton was hampered by injuries to his quad that forced Denver to rely on their run-game late in the season. While CJ Anderson was successful, it was sad to see Peyton on the field, but not be the field general we were  used to. Peyton’s story gets even sadder when we look into his performance this year. Not only is this one of Peyton’s worst years, where he is receiving heavy criticism for his play, but after suffering a foot injury, he is now in danger of not starting again depending on the play of Brock Osweiler. The greatest quarterback of all time finishing his career as a backup? That's tough.

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Top 15 Legends That Didn’t Leave With Grace