Munson, legendary radio voice for Georgia, retires suddenly

After 43 years as the lead voice on Georgia's radio network, play-by-play announcer Larry
Munson announced Monday that he has retired, effective immediately.

The 85-year-old Munson called No. 3 Georgia's first two home games this season but said he will not be in the booth Saturday when the Bulldogs take on No. 8 Alabama.

"I can't express enough my deep feelings toward the Georgia football fans," Munson said in a statement released by Georgia. "They have been so friendly especially during this most recent period of time. I feel I owe them so much more than I can give. I'll remember all the great times with the Dogs and have the fondest wishes and good luck toward them all."

Munson, who underwent surgery April 4 to remove blood clots from his
brain, cut back on his schedule last season, when he worked only
home games. Georgia said Scott Howard and Eric Zeier will work the
remaining home and road games.

"Not having him in the booth is something that every Georgia fan is going to miss," said Zeier, a former Georgia quarterback. "He's an iconic figure at the university. It was an honor for me to have played in games he called, and to have worked with him the last couple of years was quite a thrill. He might not be there in the booth, but he'll be in mind and spirit with every Georgia fan."

Munson, who turns 86 on Sunday, spent several weeks at a rehabilitation facility in Atlanta this summer, but was in good enough health to return to the radio booth for Georgia's Aug. 30 opener against FCS opponent Georgia Southern.

"It caught me by great surprise," Loran Smith, Munson's longtime sideline reporter and host of Georgia's pregame show, said of the announcement.

"I had thought that his voice for the first couple of games was a little weaker than usual," Smith said.

Munson, who began working only on home games last season, was on the pregame show by phone before Saturday night's game at Arizona State.

"He sounded stronger than ever," Smith said. "I just thought he was getting stronger and would be his old self.

"I thought with the excitement of a game like Alabama he would be back to his old heroics."

The timing of the retirement was a surprise, since the game between Georgia and Alabama will attract much attention.

"I would guess from his standpoint he's looking at the stress and pressure," Smith said. "Maybe he's thinking he wants to be very careful."

The Alabama game is a landmark for the Georgia radio team for the second straight year. Last season's game at Alabama was the first road game that Munson missed.

Georgia coach Mark Richt called Munson "one of the legendary college football broadcasters of all time."

"What do you say when a legend steps down?" Richt asked. "I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to be associated with him.

"I hope he enjoys his full retirement and wish him the very best in all the things he decides to do."

Munson's retirement was a surprise to Georgia players, too.

"Being a Georgia fan, I grew up hearing his calls," tight end Tripp Chandler said. "My parents have the recording of his call of my first touchdown. He will be missed."

ESPN.com college football writer Mark Schlabach and The Associated Press contributed to this report.