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By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES, April 16 (Reuters) - John Madden, an iconic figure in American football whose down-to-earth manner in the broadcast booth made the game come alive for millions of fans, retired from television on Thursday after a 30-year career.
At age 73, Madden said the time had come to retire from broadcasting so that he could spend more time with his family.
Madden is known for his colorful description of National Football League games and for how quick he was to draw circles on the screen using a telestrator to illustrate a play, interjecting exclamations such as “boom” and “whap.”
“He’s the absolute best sports broadcaster who ever lived, and it so happens that his fame is probably greater than anybody else’s because he did it with America’s No. 1 sport,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports, which was Madden’s most recent home as a broadcaster.
Bolstering his credibility in the broadcast booth was his winning reputation as a former professional football coach who guided the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl victory in 1977.
His 75.9 percent winning percentage during the regular season is the best of any head coach in NFL history with more than 100 career victories, and Madden was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Madden began his broadcasting career in 1979 with CBS, going on to join Fox in 1994, ABC in 2002 and NBC in 2006. He is the only figure ever to have worked as the lead football analyst for all four major U.S. TV networks.
He called his final game on Feb. 1 for NBC in a telecast of Super Bowl XLIII, which was his 11th Super Bowl as a broadcaster.
“John has always said that he never worked a day in his life, and that makes it very hard to retire from something which John has always called recess,” said Sandy Montag, who is Madden’s longtime agent.
His “Madden NFL” from Electronic Arts Inc. is the No. 1 selling sports video game of all time, with more than 65 million copies sold since its release 20 years ago. EA Sports said its relationship with Madden will continue. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)