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Patriots' Rob Gronkowski announces retirement after 9 seasons

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on Sunday announced his retirement after nine seasons. The three-time Super Bowl winner made his announcement on Instagram, thanking the Patriots organizations and fans.

"It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010," Gronkowski wrote.

Gronkowski is one of the most decorated tight-ends to ever play the game. A second round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Arizona, Gronkowski was a five-time Pro Bowler, and four-time First Team All Pro. He caught 521 passes and had 79 touchdown receptions over a nine-year career played entirely with the New England Patriots. He won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2014 after returning from a torn MCL and ACL.

Rob Gronkowski celebrates a touchdown on Sept. 10, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. Winslow Townson via AP

"My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine. Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization. Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be," he added.

"But now it's time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for [the] rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of [what's] next."

Not long after, Pats quarterback Tom Brady posted on Instagram that it was "an honor and privilege" to have played with Gronkowski.

"Your fun-loving, inspiring and positive energy made an impact on everybody you came into contact with," Brady wrote. "The NFL was a better place with you in it."

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