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49ers' Borland retiring from NFL at 24

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP):

Wary of head trauma, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland is leaving American football. And not even the promise of NFL

stardom and piles of money could change his mind. So now, after one stellar rookie season, he is retiring at age 24.

The 49ers announced his

decision late Monday, without offering specifics. But Borland told ESPN's Outside the Lines earlier in the day he wants to do "what's best for my health".

Borland had a team-leading 108 tackles as a rookie, emerging as a punishing defender. He also had a sack and two interceptions.

"From what I've researched and what I've experienced, I don't think it's worth the risk," Borland said in the interview.

"I feel largely the same, as sharp as I've ever been. For me, it's wanting to be proactive. I'm concerned that if you wait till you have symptoms, it's too late."

The 49ers' general manager, Trent Baalke, said the team was surprised by his move and called Borland a "consummate professional".

Borland's big announcement comes less than a week after seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis retired. Borland replaced Willis in the starting line-up after his October toe injury required surgery.

The NFL, like the 49ers, said it respects Borland's decision, adding that "playing any sport is a personal decision". The league stressed that "football has never been safer", noting progress with rule changes, tackling techniques, equipment, protocols and medical care.

"Concussions in NFL games were down 25 percent last year, continuing a three-year downward trend," Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety, said in a statement yesterday.