Johnny Unitas throwing to the wrong team, his helmet tarnished by a lightning bolt instead of a horseshoe. Willie Mays stumbling in center field, benched in the World Series. Michael Jordan missing easy shots, heavier and far from a wizard.

Second acts in sports aren't always pretty, even for the great ones.

"You would like for Hall of Fame players to be able to finish the same place they started," Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

Brett Favre probably pictured it that way, too.

No time to think about that now. He's got to meet new teammates, learn a different playbook, find a place to live and get his family squared away.

Let alone worry about his legacy.

"I hope I'll play the level I've played at," the star quarterback said Thursday after the Green Bay Packers traded him to the New York Jets. "There's no guarantees."

Emmitt Smith, Hank Aaron, Joe Namath and Hakeem Olajuwon made late moves and finished on teams going nowhere. Joe Montana and Karl Malone switched cities and gave themselves a chance at a championship.

For Ray Bourque, it all worked out.

One of the NHL's best defensemen, he asked the Boston Bruins to trade him near the end of his career, wanting one more try at the Stanley Cup. In 2001, after playing his last game at age 40, he hoisted the elusive prize with the Colorado Avalanche.

But hockey fans in the Hub cringe at another memory _ watching Bobby Orr, the one-time wonder boy, hobbling around on creaky knees for the Chicago Blackhawks.

O.J. Simpson, Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris each gave it final run in an unfamiliar jersey. Jerry Rice left the San Francisco 49ers and kept moving, drifting from Oakland to Seattle and Denver to "Dancing With the Stars."

"I never thought I'd ever see this day," Rice said when he finally retired.

Montana might be the closest parallel to Favre.

A four-time Super Bowl champion, Montana and the 49ers fell out of sorts during a drawn-out saga that led to a trade. At 37, Montana could still play _ he twice led the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs and did nothing to diminish his stature.

Not so for Unitas and Namath.

Baltimore fans still wince at the mention that their beloved Johnny U ever played for the San Diego Chargers. Far from home, he played part of the 1973 season dressed in powder blue instead of Colts blue, and threw seven interceptions and just three TD passes. Banged and bruised, he was done at 40.

Namath met a similar end. Long after guaranteeing his Jets would win the Super Bowl, he wound up with a horn on his helmet, grinding to a painful finish with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977.

For much of their careers, Mays and Aaron and Jordan were the faces of their franchises, the best their sports had to offer.

Jordan made the Washington Wizards the most-watched team in the NBA when he came back from a three-year retirement in 2001. He scored 20 points per game in his two final seasons, but never could recreate the dazzling image of Air Jordan or put his team into the playoffs.

Aaron spent 21 seasons with the Braves, starting in Milwaukee and moving with them to Atlanta. His swing had slowed considerably when the then-homer king went back to Milwaukee for two last years with the Brewers _ he hit 22 more home runs while batting around .230.

Mays also made a sentimental return to his roots.

A lifelong Giant, he was no longer a giant on the diamond when San Francisco traded him to the New York Mets in May 1972. He was far from a force in 1973, batting only .211 in part-time duty.

As luck would have it, the Mets reached the World Series in Mays' final year. As life would have it, long past his prime at 43, the Say Hey Kid spent Game 7 on the bench.

"Growing old," he once said, "is a helpless hurt."