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If B.J. Raji Is Done Playing Football, The Sports World Has Lost A Great Dancer

In his most memorable moment, B.J. Raji returned an interception for a touchdown in the 2011 NFC Championship Game against Chicago, following it with a dance. (PHOTO: Packers.com )

B.J. Raji is reportedly done playing football, at least for this year, which means the Packers have lost a valuable defensive lineman and the NFL has lost a priceless fat dancer.

According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Raji, a free agent drawing interest from multiple teams, plans to take a hiatus despite a “very, very nice deal” from the Packers, who are apparently aware of the 29-year-old’s decision. Other outlets have said he’s merely stepping away for a season and could return in the future.

In a confident, conscientious and gracious statement given to the Press Gazette, Raji expressed gratitude to the Packers, did not rule out a return to the league and said his decision wasn’t related to long-term health concerns.

Raji has spent his entire seven-season career in Green Bay, where he was drafted ninth overall in 2009, won a Super Bowl the following year and was named a Pro Bowler in 2011. The nose tackle missed the entire 2014 season with a torn biceps, signed a one-year deal last March and had a quietly productive 2015.

It’s not clear if Raji, who suffered a concussion in the Packers’ Divisional Round playoff loss to the Cardinals in January, isn’t walking away at least partly due to injury problems or precautions. The former Boston College standout was considered one of the brightest Packers, and it’s becoming more common for NFL players to retire due to rising distress over head injuries. Before last season, former Wisconsin Badgers star linebacker Chris Borland abruptly ended his career at age 24, citing brain health.

No matter the reason for Raji’s decision, we will always remember “The Freezer” most fondly for a moment on Jan. 23, 2011, during the Packers’ NFC Championship Game victory over the Bears. With a little more than six minutes left in the fourth quarter and Green Bay leading 14-7, Raji intercepted a Caleb Hanie pass and returned it 18 rumbling yards into the end zone for the clinching touchdown.

It was his first and only career interception and touchdown, and he followed it with a wonderful, gyrating hula dance that quickly became named “The Raji.”

Here is The Raji, in all its fat-man shimmying glory. If the football player truly is gone for good, we will always remember him this way:

And here he is doing The Raji in a State Farm “Discount Double Check” commercial, back when those ads were still fresh and funny and tolerable:

Good luck, B.J. Raji. Wherever life leads you, may you never, ever stop dancing.