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NFL

Ravens' Lewis provides spark

| Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, 6:22 p.m.

BALTIMORE — There's no telling how effective Ray Lewis will be Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts after missing 12 weeks with a torn right triceps.

Fortunately, for the Ravens, he's already provided an emotional lift.

With his announcement that he will step into retirement after Baltimore completes its 2013 playoff run, Lewis gave the slumping Ravens a boost heading into their wild-card game.

“Just having him back on the field is an inspiration,” Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.

There are plenty of engaging story lines for this game, which pits Baltimore's current NFL team against the one that left the city in a caravan of moving vans during a March 1984 snowstorm. The matchup features the return of Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who served as the Ravens' defensive coordinator last year and is back on the sideline after being treated for leukemia.

What's more, Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell coached at Indianapolis for three seasons, culminating his up-and-down run with last year's 2-14 debacle. There's also the Ravens' playoff experience — this is their fifth straight trip under coach John Harbaugh — against a young Colts team that has 28 players making their postseason debut.

But nothing is more noteworthy than the pending retirement of the 37-year-old Lewis, who has been Baltimore's starting middle linebacker for 17 years, or as long as the Ravens have been the Ravens. On Sunday, the aged warrior will don his gear inside his home arena for perhaps one last time. Lewis will then emerge from the tunnel to perform his ceremonial dance for the fervent, appreciative crowd.

“That's when it's going to hit me the most,” Ravens running back Ray Rice said. “That's when I think it's going to hit the city of Baltimore the most, that it could possibly be the last time coming through that tunnel. The emotions are going to be too rough to even think about, because Baltimore is Ray Lewis, and when he comes out of that tunnel, everybody is electrified.”

Lewis has always had an impeccable sense of timing, and his calculated announcement served as a perfect example of that trait. Baltimore (10-6) needed a boost after going 1-4 in December, and Lewis provided it Wednesday by telling his teammates “this would be my last ride.”

“He never talks about individual awards and accolades. He always talks about trying to get another trophy, another Lombardi,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “We're one of 12 teams that have an opportunity to go out there and get it, and we want to send him out the right way.”

Pagano said, “Whether he announced his retirement or not, just having Ray back, having his presence on the football field. That's going to give any team an extra edge or spark.”

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