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Maurice Clarett and the Most Ill-Advised Comebacks in Sports

Elliott PohnlFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2010

Maurice Clarett and the Most Ill-Advised Comebacks in Sports

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    Maurice Clarett is ready to give football another chance. Now, he just needs someone to take a chance on him.

    After rumors began swirling last week concerning a possible tryout with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, Clarett officially filed a motion in Franklin county to request permission to leave the state of Ohio.

    Clarett isn't allowed to leave Ohio after being released from prison earlier this year. A ruling is expected on August 30.

    Although Clarett's attorney, Michael Hoague, says his client is in great shape after working out before attending classes for the past four months, it remains to be seen if he can dust of his rust and make an impact in the UFL.

    Will he succeed, or will he join the ranks of dozens of athletes throughout history who fell flat after attempting comebacks? Based on Clarett's extended absence from the gridiron, it seems reasonable to suggest that he would be advised to work to complete his degree, something he promised to do when he was released from prison.

    Here's a look at the 10 of the most ill-advised comebacks in sports history.

Honorable Mention: Lawrence Phillips

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    As far as comebacks go, Phillips' repeated attempts to play professional football weren't terribly ill-advised. However, they were pathetic and fruitless.

    After being released by the Rams after two full seasons with the club, Phillips moved on to the Dolphins and encountered more legal trouble. He spent time with the 49ers before being released, and then the fun really started.

    Phillips signed with the Florida Bobcats of the Arena Football League in 2001 but was released after simply leaving the team without telling anyone.  He got another chance in the Canadian Football League, and flourished initially in Montreal, only to be released after arguing with his coach.

    He headed west to Calgary, where he was once again cut for insubordination. His football career was then relegated to playing pick-up games in Los Angeles.

No. 10: Bo Jackson

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    After breaking his hip while playing for the Raiders in 1991, Bo Jackson's legacy as one of the best athletes to ever live was believed to be over. Not so fast.

    Jackson returned to professional sports in 1993 when he signed with the Chicago White Sox. Although he belted a home run in his first regular season at bat, he was a shell of his former self. Frankly, it was almost painful to watch such a fantastic athlete relegated to mere-mortal status.

No. 9: Sammy Sosa

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    Like many of his athletes on this list, Sammy Sosa just didn't know when to walk away.

    After a disgraceful end to his career with the Cubs, he hit just .221 with 14 home runs for the Orioles in 2005 and balked at his lone offer, a minor-league deal from the Washington Nationals, and retired.

    After a year off, a slimmed-down Sammy signed with the Texas Rangers.  Although he had his moments in Arlington, rumors of his use of PEDs during his prime continued to haunt him.

    By the time he hung in up for good, Sosa seemed almost irrelevant in baseball history.

No. 8: Ben Johnson

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    Once Canada's brightest young star, Ben Johnson's name was tarnished beyond repair after he was caught doping in the 1988 Olympic Games.

    Johnson, who later admitted he had been using steroids since 1981, returned after his suspension from competition.  He made Canada's 1992 Olympic team in the 100 meters, but failed to qualify for the finals. Then, in 1993, he was caught doping again and was banned for life by the IAAF.

    The lifetime ban was eventually overturned to an extent, allowing him to race in Canada but not against other competitors. He ran his final race in 1999 against the clock.

No. 7: Bobby Hull

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    Like several athletes on this list, Bobby Hull came back not just once but twice.

    Although his first comeback with the NHL's Winnipeg Jets was moderately successful, his second comeback with the New York Rangers was not.

    Then 42 years of age, Hull played in just five exhibition games before deciding to hang it up for good.

No. 6: Joe Louis

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    Joe Lewis needed money, which is why he returned to the ring in 1950 after retiring the year prior.

    The man who held the heavyweight belt for over a decade needed funds to repay a huge tax debt and fought a handful of club fighters before receiving a substantial purse to fight heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano in 1951.

    Marciano, who later admitted he didn't want to fight Lewis in the first place, was the underdog for the fight but won in the eighth-round in a knockout. He apologized after the fight, and Lewis eventually knew it was time to quit for good.

No. 5: Mark Spitz

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    Once the world's most decorate Olympic swimmer, Spitz retired in 1972 after winning seven gold medals in the Munich Games.

    He decided to return 20 years later in 1992, without his signature mustache and attempt to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. His comeback attempt never got off the ground as he finished over two seconds short of qualifying.

No. 4: Jim Palmer

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    Jim Palmer's comeback attempt at age 45 falls in the "what in the hell were they thinking" category.

    Palmer decided to give it another try one year after being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He signed a deal with the Orioles, the team he won three World Series with, while capturing three Cy Young Awards.

    After being shelled in an exhibition game, Palmer reluctantly ended his comeback attempt.

No. 3: Muhammad Ali

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    The Greatest of All Time returned to the ring in 1980 after he had retired after showing signs of slowing down. Much like other great athletes on this list, he just wasn't himself.

    Ali lost back-to-back bouts to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. Ali decided to retire for good after the Berbick match, ending his career shortly before he turned 40 years old.

No. 2: Rickey Henderson

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    It's simply impossible to list all of the teams Rickey Henderson played for during his lengthy professional baseball career. 

    The flamboyant speedster who holds the Major League record for steals in a season with 130 in 1982, a record that will likely never be broken, won two World Series and became baseball's all-time leader in stolen bases.

    All told, he played 25 years in the Major Leagues. But that wasn't the end of the story.

    Henderson played with the Newark Bears in 2003 and also spent time with the San Diego Surf Dogs in 2005, where he flourished while leading the team to the league championship.

    Henderson finally officially announced his retirement in 2007. His ability to play at an advanced age and passion for the game is admirable, but he ultimately hung around a bit too long.

No. 1: Michael Jordan

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    The first comeback went well, the second one really didn't.

    Michael Jordan was still able to play at a decent level in the NBA when he returned to the Wizards in 2001. But it just wasn't the same.

    Jordan authored what many believed to be the most fitting end to one of the greatest athletic careers ever when he held his follow-through after beating the Jazz in Game Six of the 1998 NBA Finals.

    It was the perfect time to ride off into the sunset, but the ultra-competitive Jordan just couldn't stay away. His return held the Wizards hostage and tainted his legacy, however slightly.

    Sometimes, you just have to know when to say when.

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