Actor Anthony Geary, whose character Luke Spencer's marriage to Laura in 1981 on "General Hospital" was the biggest moment in daytime television history, is leaving the soap opera after nearly three decades in the role.

It was Geary's decision to leave, and he'll be written out of the ABC show for an episode that will air later this summer, executive producer Frank Valentini said Friday.

"Anthony is our friend and a part of our television family, but, as difficult as this may be, we understand and respect that this is his choice," Valentini said.

More than 30 million people tuned in to watch Luke marry Laura, considered a storybook event despite the creepy backstory of Laura falling in love with her rapist. Actress Genie Francis, who played Laura but hasn't been on "General Hospital" since 2013, will return this summer to participate in the story of Luke's exit, ABC said.

Geary, 67, began playing Luke in 1978 but left the show in 1984. He returned in 1991 but, tired of the character, played Luke's lookalike cousin. Audiences didn't like it, however, so the cousin was killed off and Geary resumed playing Luke in 1993, and has remained with the show since then.

Geary told TVInsider.com that he was "weary of the grind and have been for 20 years.

"There was a point after my back surgery last year where it became clear to me that my time is not infinite," he said. "And I really don't want to die, collapsing in a heap, on the 'GH' set one day."

Geary said he wasn't retiring, however. He spends much of his nonworking time in a second home in Amsterdam, and said he's looking forward to spending more time there.

ABC wasn't saying Friday how Geary's unsavory character will be written out of the show. Geary said he thought suicide was an option but didn't think the audience or network would stand for it.

"If I were in his place, I'd go to Tibet or Nepal on some kind of spiritual journey, even though he's an atheist," Geary told TVInsider.com. "He needs to be at peace."