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Lions kicker Jason Hanson hangs up his cleats after 21 seasons

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Jason Hanson announced his retirement on Thursday (USA Today Sports Images)

After spending the last 21 seasons with the Detroit Lions, unrestricted free agent kicker Jason Hanson has announced that he is retiring from professional football.

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"It's time," Hanson said in a statement released by the Lions. “I gave serious thought and consideration to playing in 2013. While the determination and willpower are still there, the wear and tear on my body, especially the issues I had and still have with my heel have convinced me that it’s time to retire.

"While I look forward to my press conference next Tuesday where I can publicly thank so many people who have played such a big part in my career, I do want to offer my sincere appreciation to the Ford Family, all my coaches and teammates, the Lions organization and the incredible Lions fans. You all helped me along this journey and I am forever grateful."

Hanson, who turns 43-years-old in June, is a native of Spokane, Washington who played his college ball at Washington State before he was selected by the Lions in the second round (No. 56 overall) of the 1992 NFL draft. (Side note: Hanson was selected on April 26, 1992. Thirty-two days later, Florida defensive tackle and likely Top 10 pick Shariff Floyd was born.) Over his 21 seasons, Hanson missed just nine games due to injury, connected on 495 of 601 (82.4 percent) field goal attempts, and was named to a pair of Pro Bowl squads. Anderson's 52 field goals from beyond 50 yards are the most in NFL history.

Hanson finished his career with 327 games played, the most one NFL player has ever played with one team, and 2,150 points, which is the most in Lions' history and ranks third in NFL history, behind fellow kickers Morten Andersen (2,544) and Gary Anderson (2,434).

"Jason Hanson is the gold standard," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "He had an exemplary, Hall-of-Fame worthy career on the field, and for those of us fortunate to know him well, he is an even better person, teammate, friend, husband and father.

"Our organization has been blessed to have Jason for 21 years."

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The Lions will have a difficult time replacing Hanson, but the process will have an open competition throughout the upcoming offseason. First-year special teams coach John Bonamego oversaw an open competition last month that resulted in the signing of Blake Clingan, an undrafted street free agent who kicked for Central Florida. The Lions will likely bring in a veteran or a draft choice to compete with Clingan.

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