There are few things as exhilarating in sports as watching an all-time great come back and achieve one more moment of glory. On the flip side, few things can be as excruciating as watching a former all-star past his or her prime. Sometimes star athletes are welcomed back with open arms by their former teams, but in other cases their presence can either make for awkward roster composition or a tough breakup, leading them to seek new opportunities.
Stacker examines 25 athletes who came out of retirement, whose stories range between the good, the bad, and the ugly. Who can forget Brett Favre's ugly divorce from the Green Bay Packers (with newcomer Aaron Rodgers mostly an innocent bystander) and then his attempt to stick it to his former club, suiting up in the unfathomable purple of the rival Minnesota Vikings? Swimming fans likely have fonder memories of Michael Phelps' return to the water, as he overcame personal turmoil to continue shattering Olympic swimming marks. Meanwhile, the script remains unwritten for Jason Witten, who after one year as a football commentator will head back onto the field for the Dallas Cowboys this fall.
There are even cases where un-retirees have had impacts beyond the final score. Pelé left retirement to play in a fledgling pro soccer league in North America and increased his sport's popularity in the United States. Then there was the unforgettable first retirement of Magic Johnson, who left behind the National Basketball Association and a Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers when he announced he tested positive for HIV. Johnson returned to the court to wow basketball fans once again, also spreading worldwide awareness of the virus. Click through to reminisce on some of the sporting world's most memorable encores and their impact on the legacy of some of the world's best athletes.