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Brilliant Kurt Warner retires

By Tim Gaynor

TEMPE, Arizona (Reuters) - Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner retired on Friday after a 12-year NFL career that yielded a Super Bowl championship and established him as one of the game's elite players.

"There is something to be said, I think, to being able to leave on your own terms and playing at the level you want to play at," he told a news conference.

"I don't think I could've handled playing at a lesser level, I think that would've frustrated me."

Warner, a former player in the Arena Football League, made a name for himself with the St Louis Rams during the 1999 NFL season when he was named the starter and led the franchise to its first Super Bowl victory.

The 38-year-old made it to the Super Bowl twice more, once each with the Rams and Cardinals, and retires at the top of his game with one year left on his contract.

He spent the last five seasons with the Cardinals and led the team to its first Super Bowl appearance last year where Arizona nearly pulled off victory until a last-minute touchdown by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Warner is one of only two quarterbacks to start for two different Super Bowl teams.

Earlier this month he threw for five touchdowns and no interceptions in a 51-45 overtime victory over Green Bay during the wildcard round of the playoffs, regarded as one of the NFL's all-time great individual efforts.

Warner's bid to lead Arizona back to the Super Bowl fell short the following week after a 45-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoffs.

In his last NFL season he completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 3,753 yards and 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions as he guided the 10-6 Cardinals to the NFC West championship.

Warner, who holds the record for the top three passing totals in the Super Bowl, also led the 2002 Rams to the Super Bowl where the team lost to the New England Patriots.

NEVER DRAFTED

"I don't think about playing another game," he said. "I'm sure there are going to be moments where you miss it, you want to be out there.

"But as of right now there is no question in my mind that I am doing what I am supposed to do."

Warner was never drafted by an NFL team and was released by the Green Bay Packers after a tryout in 1994 when he competed against Brett Favre.

He later took a job stocking shelves at a grocery store in Iowa.

The success he had in Arena Football earned him a contract with the Rams in 1998. He eventually inherited the team's starting job in 1999 after Trent Green went down with an injury during pre-season.

Warner was elected to the Pro Bowl four times and has passed for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns during a career with the Rams, Cardinals and New York Giants.

He is a twice NFL Most Valuable Player and was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player in 2000.

"When I thought about my career ending I wanted people to remember that anything is possible," said Warner.

"Although sometimes it doesn't look really bright and things don't go in your favor and there's moments you want to give up ... I think I am a living example that when you make yourself useful, when you continue to work hard, when you continue to believe in yourself ... anything is possible."

(Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Tony Jimenez)