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Longtime ESPN broadcaster and Outside the Lines host Bob Ley announced his decision to retire on Wednesday morning. Ley was the network's longest-tenured broadcaster, having joined ESPN in 1979 when it launched.

"Across 40 years I have enjoyed a professional journey unimaginable when I joined ESPN on its first weekend of existence in 1979," Ley wrote. "Each day since has been a unique adventure, one I embraced for the challenge and unequaled fun of a job like no other. Now, it is time for a change. I will be retiring from ESPN, as of the end of the month."

Ley, 64, clarified that the decision to retire was entirely his own and thanked both the network and fans for a "great run."

"The standard of excellence that has become a hallmark of ESPN began in the early days when we were a start-up with a bold vision," ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. "Bob was there for all of it and, over the years, his unwavering commitment and unparalleled work ethic drove our journalistic ambitions."

The ESPN anchor took a six-month sabbatical in September, signing off on what was to become his last show that month. Ley said in the fall that his decision to step away from his Outside the Lines hosting duties then was also a decision he made, saying, "the idea of stepping back to re-charge is fully 100% mine."

Ley received a sports Emmy for outstanding studio host last May.