CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Defensive end Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers announced Friday his retirement after 17 seasons, nine Pro Bowl appearances and six All-Pro selections.

Peppers spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Panthers, then played four with Chicago, three with Green Bay and his final two seasons back with Carolina. He missed four games in 2002, his rookie season, then played in 254 of a possible 256 games over the rest of his career.

Peppers finished his career with 1591/2 sacks, fourth-most in NFL history. He’s the only player with at least 150 sacks and 10 interceptions – he had 11 – and blocked 13 field goals and extra-point attempts.

Peppers announced his retirement in an essay published by The Players Tribune. He said he still feels good but knows football couldn’t last forever.

“The Super Bowl ring eluded me but I don’t need that to validate me,” Peppers wrote. “I would have loved to have helped deliver that to the fans in Carolina, but I’m content with the career that I had.”

PATRIOTS: The team was back to full participation as it returned to the practice field for a final workout before the Super Bowl.

The team gathered in the middle of Georgia Tech’s field house and Lawyer Milloy, a safety on the Patriots’ 2001 Super Bowl-winning team, broke the team huddle with its “Aww yeah!” catchphrase.

“He’s one of us,” Coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s here pulling for us. I appreciate that.”

The practice lasted a little more than an hour.

WADE WILSON, a former NFL quarterback and longtime assistant coach, died Friday at his home in Coppell, Texas.

The Dallas Cowboys, who made the announcement, didn’t specify a cause of death for Wilson, who died on his 60th birthday.

Wilson played for five NFL teams from 1981-98. He played 10 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, leading them to the 1987 NFC championship game. He also played for the Atlanta Falcons (1992), New Orleans Saints (1993-94), Cowboys (1995-97) and Oakland Raiders (1998). He was Troy Aikman’s backup when the Cowboys won their last Super Bowl title during the 1995 season.

Wilson began his coaching career as the Cowboys’ quarterback coach from 2000-02.

HALL OF FAME: John Elway has a good feeling that Pat Bowlen, the Denver owner, will join him in the Hall of Fame this weekend.

“He’s right on the doorstep,” said Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-executive. “He’s very deserving. We’re excited about the fact that he’s gotten this far. We feel great about where he is.”

Bowlen is a contributor finalist with a former Dallas Cowboys executive, Gil Brandt. This year’s modern-era finalists include Champ Bailey, Steve Atwater and John Lynch, all of whom played for Bowlen’s Broncos.

RAMS: Kicker Greg Zuerlein and defensive back Blake Countess returned to full participation when Los Angeles held its final practice before the Super Bowl.

Coach Sean McVay also said running back Todd Gurley is fully healthy.

The Rams wrapped up their on-field work for the week outdoors at the Atlanta Falcons’ training complex.

RONNIE BARNES of the New York Giants was given a lifetime achievement award at the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation’s Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.’s Salute to Excellence Awards.

The foundation, which promotes diversity and minority hiring throughout the NFL, presented the award Thursday night to the Giants’ senior vice president of medical services at a hotel just outside Atlanta.

The soon-to-be 67-year-old Barnes has spent the past 43 years with the Giants. He joined the team in 1976 as an athletic training intern. He became a full-time employee in 1980 and was named head trainer the following year. At the time, Barnes was the only black athletic trainer.

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