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Bob Ley, an ESPN original and a paragon of sports journalism on television, announced his retirement Wednesday after 40 years at the network.

Ley was a “SportsCenter’ anchor during the program’s 1980s rise to cultural prominence but became best known as the host of “Outside The Lines.” He has been on a leave of absence since October.

The 64-year-old Ley was ESPN’s longest-tenured anchor, having debuted on Sept. 9, 1979, the third day the upstart cable sports network was on air.

“To be clear, this is entirely my decision,” Ley said in a statement. “I enjoy the best of health, and the many blessings of friends and family, and it is in that context that I’m making this change.

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“I have been gifted by our viewers and consumers with a precious commodity — your trust. To be invited into your homes was a privilege I never took for granted, one I worked each day to uphold. Thank you for that. Thank you for a great run.”

Ley hosted “Outside The Lines,” ESPN’s investigative news program, since the show launched in May 1990 and also hosted ESPN’s weekly “E:60” news magazine show on Sunday mornings.

Ley, an 11-time Sports Emmy winner who was inducted into the National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame this week, joined interim host Jeremy Schaap to say goodbye on Wednesday’s program.

“Nothing would please me more than continuing to consume, tune in, to read and just to see the reaction to great stuff being done here,” said Ley. “If anything I did has a small role going forward, then that’s good stuff.”

Related: A day with Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap at ESPN (2017)


Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.