04/21/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT
Wayne Gretzky ended his National Hockey League career on Sunday to rousing cheers and endless chants from an overflow crowd at Madison Square Garden. Smiling through his tears, the greatest player ever made it easy for everyone to say good-bye -- skating around the arena slowly enough for plenty of souvenir photos to be taken. Gretzky, 38, skated one lap around the rink with teammates in tow; then came an encore, with a lone spotlight following him around the ice as Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" resounded throughout the arena."I'm devastated I will no longer be a hockey player," Gretzky said. "I will miss every part of the game, because I loved every part of the game. But I've made the right decision."
Gretzky ended his career with an assist (his 1,963rd, to go along with his 894 goals), as his New York Rangers lost to Pittsburgh 2-1 in overtime.