NFL legend Tom Brady shocked the world of sport on Sunday night when, out of the blue, he announced a comeback ahead of the 2022 season.
The decision comes just six weeks after he brought an end to his incredible 22-year trophy-laden career, with the quarterback regarded as the greatest to have ever played the sport, having won seven Super Bowls.
There is, therefore, a big risk attached to his decision to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad… he will be 45 by the time the season gets underway in September. Will he ever reach the heights he previously experienced?
But, of course, he is not the first and he won’t be the last to make an eye-catching U-turn. From Paul Scholes and Sir Alex Ferguson to Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, Sportsmail takes a look at whether it’s ever worked before…
Tom Brady, 44, has decided he is not ready to stop playing American football just yet
It’s May 2011, and Manchester United have just lost to Barcelona in the final of the Champions League. They are, though, Premier League champions… and Paul Scholes opts to bow out at the very top of the game.
At the age of 36, he announced his retirement with very little fuss, keen to bow out quickly and quietly, with 10 league titles and 676 appearances. Three months later, he had a testimonial at Old Trafford and was all set to join the coaching staff after 17 years as a player.
Fast forward a few months, though, and he already had itchy feet. In January, Scholes spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson about a potential return, and with the club going through something of an injury crisis in midfield, he returned to the squad.
He made his second debut against Manchester City in the FA Cup wearing £50 boots, a story he recalled years later.
Paul Scholes came back for two more seasons at Man United after initially walking away
‘They were all the ones the lads were wearing, obviously. Same colours and stuff, same patterns,’ he said on BBC 5Live. ‘But I believe I bought the cheap ones. It wasn’t until I was actually warming up on the pitch [that I realised]. I couldn’t get a pair of boots off Nike, they couldn’t send me a pair because we couldn’t tell them.
‘Nobody knew, it was a big secret and it didn’t get announced until the teams were announced at City in the FA Cup.’
He played 21 times that season, with Man City and the famous Sergio Aguero moment snatching the league title from them on the final day, but the next season United were crowned champions again and Scholes bowed out with an 11th title.
He took his United appearances past 700, and showed he still had bags of talent at the ripe old age of 38.
SIR ALEX FERGUSON
Scholes wasn’t the only high-profile name to call it a day at United, only to change his mind shortly after. In the dugout, Ferguson did much the same in 2002.
In the season before, the legendary Old Trafford boss cited age and health as his reasons for walking away. At the time, he had won six Premier League titles, and he went on to make it seven later that campaign.
When push came to shove, though, something kept Fergie going and in February 2002, the Scot revealed he would in fact carry on as manager.
It didn’t go too well though… only another six Premier Premier League titles and a Champions League to add to his collection.
Ferguson then did eventually quit for good in 2013, leaving as the most successful manager in history. Not a bad U-turn, that one.
Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to leave United in 2002 but stayed and won six more league titles
Bear with me on this one… I’ll try and summarise it as quickly as possible. Essentially, we’ve lost count of the number of times McGregor has retired and then returned to UFC over the years.
The first, and most believable, came in 2016, when the Irishman tweeted ‘I have decided to retire young’ amid a bitter pay dispute with the UFC, just a month after his first loss to Nate Diaz.
He was at the very top of the sport and it came as a huge shock, only for McGregor to then U-turn 48 hours later with a long, rambling Facebook post claiming ‘I am still ready to go for UFC 200’ and ‘I AM NOT RETIRED’.
Fast forward to 2019, and off the back of his defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov, McGregor again hung up his… MMA shorts (?). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the latest decision came amid a suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his part in a brawl that broke out after the Khabib loss.
He then returned to beat Donald Cerrone in January 2020, retired again, before returning to lose to Dustin Poirier in January 2021 and July 2021.
Right now, who knows? The Notorious is still active on social media – and very popular in the sport – so don’t be surprised if he returns to the octagon a few times more when he has recovered from his injuries.
Conor McGregor has retired three times, only to return for another payday in the UFC
Rewind to 1988, when Cameroon legend Milla announced his retirement from the international game. He bowed out as a hero, having played in the 1982 World Cup and in the 1984 Olympic Games in California.
He was celebrated with a huge party in Cameroon at the age of 36… but little did he know, he was far from done yet, and his legacy was still to be cemented in the years that followed.
Ahead of Italia 90, he was persuaded to play one last tournament for his country, and at the age of 38 he was one of the stars. He scored four times, including two in the quarter-final against England, and *that* corner flag celebration has become legendary.
Remarkably, four years later he played AGAIN – at the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Aged 42, his goal against Russia made him the oldest ever goalscorer at a World Cup… a record that still stands today, and may never be beaten.
Roger Milla lit up two World Cups after his first retirement and is the oldest scorer ever
To boxing now, and Mayweather, who holds a 50-0 record in the sport having beaten UFC star McGregor back in 2017. It could have been very different, though, with the American initially hanging up his gloves after beating Ricky Hatton in 2007.
With a record of 39-0, he claimed that he wanted to focus on his business – Mayweather Promotions – and he signed British fighter Hatton up as his first client.
Two years later, though, and that feeling that has plagued many sports stars took over, urging Mayweather to return for another go.
Incredibly, he went on to fight another 10 times – winning them all – before again stepping aside in 2015 after beating Andre Berto.
There was another U-turn for the McGregor fight two years later, and he has since fought Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a money-spinning exhibition – and appeared at WWE’s No Way Out event.
Truth be told, don’t be too surprised if he returns again in the months and years ahead, despite him now being 45.
Floyd Mayweather retired after beating Ricky Hatton in 2007 but then won 10 more fights
F1 legend Lauda’s greatest comeback came after suffering horrific burns in a near-fatal crash at the Nurburgring in 1976.
He was soon back in his Ferrari and went on to claim his second Formula One title the following year.
The Austrian retired in 1979 but was back on the track in 1982 and won the 1984 world title for McLaren.
Basketball great Jordan shocked the sport when he announced his first retirement at the age of 30, months after winning his third NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1993.
Jordan played some minor league baseball before making his return to the NBA in 1995, going on to win three more championships with the Bulls.
Michael Jordan’s U-turn is one of the most famous – he took up baseball for a few short months
Foreman became the unified heavyweight champion of the world with a win over Joe Frazier in 1973 but retired from the sport four years later following a loss to Jimmy Young.
The American made his return to the ring a decade later, winning a string of fights before knocking out Michael Moorer to claim the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at the age of 45.
Clijsters won tennis’ US Open in 2005 before her first retirement two years later. She returned to the sport in 2009 and won a second major title in New York as an unseeded wild card.
The Belgian defended her US Open crown in 2010 and picked up the last of her four major titles at the Australian Open in 2011 before retiring again in 2012. She made her second comeback in early 2020.
Kim Clijsters, pictured playing last month, retired in 2007 but came back to win more majors
Swimmer Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 23 gold medals, announced his retirement following the 2012 London Olympics.
The American returned to the pool two years later and qualified for 2016 Rio Olympics, where he won five more gold medals.
Baseball pitcher Clemens first retired at the age of 41 in 2003 after winning six Cy Young awards with three American League ballclubs.
He returned to the sport a year later and won a record seventh Cy Young Award, as the top pitcher in the National League, this time with the Houston Astros.
Baseball legend Roger Clemens walked away at 41 but couldn’t stay away longer than a year
Canadian ice hockey legend Lemieux’s career was blighted by health problems, including a battle with cancer, and he twice retired only to resume a highly successful career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Canadian spent three years out of the game between 1997 and 2000, during which he was installed in the Hall of Fame, but returned to the ice for another six years before enjoying even more success as owner of the Penguins.
The NFL’s Favre established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time during a 16-season spell with the Green Bay Packers, winning a Super Bowl title in 1997.
In 2008, Favre retired for the first time, but a few months later he signed with the New York Jets. He retired again after one season with the Jets but made another comeback and enjoyed a stellar season with the Minnesota Vikings.
Brett Favre thought his time was up in 2008, and 2009, but kept coming back for more
Torres, who became the first US swimmer to compete in five Olympics, twice come out of retirement to add to her medal collection.
The 12-times Olympic medallist first quit the sport after the 1992 Barcelona Games and then came back to take five medals in Sydney in 2000 before again retiring to start a family.
She then returned for a second time at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning three silver medals at the age of 41.
After Argentina lost to Chile on penalties in the 2016 Copa America final, Messi announced his retirement from international football.
He changed his mind a few weeks later and helped drag an inconsistent Argentina to the World Cup finals in 2018, before winning the Copa America in 2021 to claim his first major international title.