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Hines' time as a Steelers wide receiver over after being released

Hines Ward's tenure with the Steelers has come to an end.

Steelers president Art Rooney II announced Wednesday that the team will sever ties with its all-time leading receiver within two weeks.

"We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year (March 13)," Rooney said. "Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998, and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years."

The Steelers drafted Ward in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft out of Georgia. He spent 14 years with the team, becoming the team's all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29).

Ward released the following statement Wednesday:

"This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago. I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold.

"I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL again this upcoming season."

Ward is the eighth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions and joined Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only two players in league history to post 1,000 career catches and win multiple Super Bowls.

Ward was MVP of Super Bowl XL while helping lead the Steelers to a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

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