From competitive cycling for the second time in five years, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, 39. After initially retiring in 2005, Armstrong returned to the sport two years ago to raise cancer awareness. His own recovery from the disease is well-chronicled: a 1996 diagnosis of stage three testicular cancer (which had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen), followed by a remarkable comeback in '98 and then the first of his seven straight Tour titles a year later. In his final seasons Armstrong lacked his former dominance, finishing third in the Tour in 2009 and 23rd last year. (Meanwhile federal authorities are continuing their nine-month-old investigation into whether he was involved in performance-enhancing-drug use while riding for the U.S. Postal team from 1999 to 2004—an allegation he has consistently denied.) On Feb. 16, having placed 65th in his most recent race, in Australia (above), Armstrong called it quits again. "Never say never," he said when asked if he might return, adding, "Just kidding."
At age 50 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, four-time Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson. The former Notre Dame All-America, who won Super Bowls with the 1985 Bears and the '90 Giants, had struggled in recent years. In 2005 he was charged in a domestic dispute, which led to his divorce and to his resignation as a Notre Dame trustee. He soon after foreclosed on a home and lost a Wisconsin food company that he had started. In text messages to family members before he killed himself, Duerson asked that his brain be examined for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to depression and often associated with contact sports.
From Iowa's high school wrestling tournament rather than compete against a female, 16-year-old Joel Northrup. A homeschooled sophomore who had a 35--4 record wrestling for Linn-Mar High, and whose Pentecostal beliefs, his pastor said, forbid him from touching females in a "familiar way," Northrup drew Cedar Falls freshman Cassy Herkelman (20--13), one of the first two girls ever to compete in the tournament, as his first-round opponent in the 112-pound class last Thursday. Northrup defaulted, adding in a statement that "wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times." Herkelman's win, the first for an Iowa girl, advanced her to the quarterfinals, where she lost 5--1 on Friday. The other first-time female, Megan Black of Ottumwa, was eliminated on Thursday.
At age 80 of respiratory failure, former running back Ollie Matson, who is in both the college and pro football halls of fame and who twice won medals in the Olympics. At the University of San Francisco, Matson became a face of the civil rights movement in 1951, a season in which he led the nation in rushing yet finished ninth in Heisman voting while his undefeated Dons—who started two African-Americans—were passed over for bowls. A year later he won a bronze medal in the 400 meters and a silver in the 4 ... 400 relay at the Helsinki Olympics. That summer Matson (above) also kicked off a stellar NFL career with the Chicago Cardinals, for whom he was co--Rookie of the Year. In 14 seasons with four teams (including the Rams, who famously traded nine players for him in '59), Matson gained 12,799 all-purpose yards, scored 73 touchdowns and was an All-Pro seven times.
From baseball after a one-year absence from the game, 42-year-old outfielder Gary Sheffield, whose 509 career home runs rank 24th all time (and placed him fifth among active players). The nephew of former Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden, with whom he was raised in the Belmont Heights projects near Tampa and from whom he learned to hit a fastball, Sheffield played for eight teams in 22 seasons and was known almost as much for his brash behavior as his skill at the plate. He made a run at the Triple Crown with the Padres in 1992 (he fell two home runs and nine RBIs short) and helped the Marlins to the World Series title in '97. His tenures with the Brewers, Dodgers and Yankees ended poorly, however, with him accusing each team of racism or of having spent their money ineptly. With the Mets in April 2009, his final season, Sheffield became just the third player (after Ty Cobb and Rusty Staub) to homer before age 20 and after age 40.