Lions' Calvin Johnson joins these stars in taking early retirement

Lions all-time leading receiver Johnson retires (1:52)

ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein examines six-time Pro Bowler Calvin Johnson's legacy. The man they call "Megatron" retires as Detroit's all-time leading wide receiver and the NFL's single-season receiving yards record holder. (1:52)

Calvin Johnson, the prolific Detroit Lions wide receiver whose amazing size and strength led a teammate to tag him with the comic-book name "Megatron" early in his career, announced Tuesday that he is retiring after nine prolific NFL seasons -- despite earning his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl selection this past season.

"After much prayer, thought and discussion with loved ones, I have made the difficult decision to retire from the Lions and pro football. I have played my last game of football," Johnson, 30, said in a statement released by the Lions.

Johnson, who has dealt with multiple injuries in recent years, was a part of just two winning seasons in Detroit and endured the only 0-16 season (2008) in NFL history. The owner of 15 NFL records, Johnson joins this list of illustrious athletes who left fans wanting more.

Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers, 30

The seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker said that seeing too many hobbled retired players, as well as fatigue from his own recurring injuries, factored into his decision to quit in March 2015 with three years and nearly $20 million in base salary left on his contract. A week later, Chris Borland, a linebacker coming off a promising rookie season who was expected to fill Willis' void in the 49ers' defense, retired because of concerns about his health.

Lorena Ochoa, golf, 28

Ochoa, who was born in Mexico, dominated the LPGA tour before she retired to start a family in 2010 after finishing the three previous years ranked No. 1. Coincidentally, Annika Sorenstam had retired at 37 in 2007, the year Ochoa displaced her as the world's top-ranked women's golfer.

Pat Tillman, Arizona Cardinals, 25

Tillman, a safety, retired after four years with the Cardinals in May 2002 and enlisted as an Army Ranger in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions, 31

Sanders' success with the Lions was as meteoric as his start at Oklahoma State, but he quit before the 1999 season by faxing his decision to his hometown paper, the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle. (Remember faxes?) After his 10 seasons with the Lions, Sanders was fewer than 1,500 yards shy of Walter Payton's NFL rushing record.

Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers, 32

Johnson shocked the sports world in 1991 by announcing he was retiring because he'd contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At the time it was feared his diagnosis was a death sentence. But he returned to play in 32 games in the 1995-96 season at age 36, and his health remains vibrant 25 years after he first revealed he was HIV-positive.

Bjorn Borg, tennis, 26

The Swedish star won 11 Grand Slam singles titles throughout the late '70s and early '80s before he left the court frustrated after his '81 U.S. Open loss to John McEnroe. Nobody realized it would be Borg's final Grand Slam appearance. He'd also lost to McEnroe in 1981 at Wimbledon, a tournament Borg had won the five previous years. After a sabbatical, Borg announced his retirement in January 1983.

Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins, 30

Orr was the most swashbuckling defenseman the NHL had ever seen. His puck carrying, end-to-end rushes were scintillating. Then knee injuries destroyed his career. He was limited to 26 games over his final three seasons and called it quits in 1979. Today, he's a top hockey agent.

Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens, 31

After winning two Stanley Cups in his first three seasons, Dryden sat out the 1973-74 season to clerk for a law firm for $135 a week while he finished law school. After his year off, Dryden returned for five more seasons and four more Stanley Cups before hanging up his skates for good. One of the true Renaissance men in sports history, Dryden made it into the Hall of Fame on the eight seasons he did play. He also has been a politician, businessman, author, hockey executive, broadcaster and lecturer at McGill University.

Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, 30

Koufax is arguably the best left-handed pitcher of all time even though arm trouble prematurely ended the four-time World Series champ's career after 12 seasons. In 1966, his final year, he went 27-9, led the Dodgers to the NL pennant and earned his third Cy Young Award despite pitching in constant pain caused by arthritis.

Jim Brown, Cleveland Browns, 30

For years, Brown was celebrated as the best sports example of how to be bad-ass cool and dare to quit young, while on top. He became the NFL's leading rusher after only nine seasons, then held his July 1966 goodbye news conference in London, where he was filming "The Dirty Dozen."

Rocky Marciano, boxing, 32

Marciano hung up the gloves in 1956, finishing 49-0 in his career, and remains the only heavyweight boxer to retire undefeated. He died in an Iowa plane crash in bad weather the night before his 46th birthday.

Bobby Jones, golf, 28

Jones, a practicing attorney, pulled off a Grand Slam sweep of the four majors of his day in 1930 and then retired from tournament golf. His post-competition pursuits included the design of Augusta National, home of the Masters. As Jones put it, "[Championship golf] is something like a cage. First you are expected to get into it and then you are expected to stay there."

The Lions' Johnson seems to understand exactly what Jones meant.