So much for going gently into that good night. More than two years after announcing his retirement in a tearful press conference that left an entire state of Cheeseheads in mourning, storied quarterback Brett Favre shared the field with the Green Bay Packers again. Only problem: he played for their divisional rival, the Minnesota Vikings, in what was breathlessly touted as a revenge match against the team that thought the 39-year-old signal caller was washed up. Favre proved his critics and the Packers wrong, leading the Vikings to a 30-23 victory, throwing three touchdowns in the process.
Favre is certainly not the first athlete to flip-flop (twice) on saying farewell to his game. Pitcher Roger Clemens remains the reigning king of comebacks: he retired a total of three times, in 2003, 2006 and 2007. Lance Armstrong left cycling in 1996 to battle cancer but returned two years later, going on to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles.
Other sports stars have re-emerged to save a struggling franchise, like Michael Jordan, who proclaimed his 1995 return to the Chicago Bulls after a failed bid at pro baseball with a two-word press release: "I'm back." The deathless Rocky franchise aside, the "sweet science" seems to specialize in sequels: Muhammad Ali re-entered the ring three years after the New York State Boxing Commission revoked his license for his refusal to fight in Vietnam, while George Foreman, who quit boxing in 1974, became the oldest fighter to win a major heavyweight title 20 years later. And it's not just athletes: in 2006, Barbra Streisand fans nearly took their idol to court when the singer announced a series of farewell shows seven years after her last "last-ever" tour.
Blame the homecomings on boredom, nostalgia or an indomitable drive to compete ("I got the itch," Favre reportedly told former teammate Al Harris during his first return, in 2008). But not all comebacks are success stories. Just ask Bjorn Borg, who left tennis in 1983 and un-retired in 1991, wooden racket in hand. He didn't win a single match that year. And Jordan was hardly magic during his brief stint with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, as injuries limited his playing time. Indeed, Favre's first comeback, with the New York Jets, fell apart down the stretch the Jets failed to make the playoffs, and Favre tore his biceps tendon. The Vikings took a bit of a flyer on Favre, who turns 40 on Oct. 10, but their trust has paid off with an undefeated start to the season and Favre's best performance of the year under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, no less. A start and revenge like that might be enough to keep this old veteran's second comeback one worth remembering.
With reporting by Dan Fletcher