DAVIE, Fla. – Hall of Fame-bound Dan Marino says he retired five years ago only after rejecting an offer to play for his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When his 17-year career with the Miami Dolphins ended with the 1999 season, Marino turned down a well-publicized offer from the Minnesota Vikings. On Thursday, Marino said he also was approached by other teams, including the Steelers and coach Bill Cowher.

“I had a chance to go to Pittsburgh,” Marino said. “I don’t think anybody knew that. … Cowher called me about playing, but I had to make a decision within a couple of days, because he already had a guy that he was going to sign.”

Instead, the Pittsburgh native – 38 years old and hampered by injuries – decided against playing in 2000.

“At the time, I just kept thinking back to how my body felt the year before,” he said. “And to me there was something special about playing 17 years in one place. Although I was pretty close to doing it, it just didn’t feel right. I probably could have played another year, no doubt.”

The most prolific passer in NFL history, Marino will be inducted Aug. 7 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

in Canton, Ohio.

Don Shula paid tribute during a telephone conference call Wednesday – and in the process took a shot at his successor as Dolphins coach, Jimmy Johnson. Shula, unable to contain his disdain for Johnson, bristled when asked if Marino benefited from having only two coaches.

“You mean he had one coach,” Shula said. “Look at the numbers. They speak for themselves.”

During 13 years with Shula, Marino averaged 28 touchdown passes per season, and Miami had a winning percentage of .614, plus six playoff victories. Throwing less often in his four years under Johnson, Marino averaged 17 touchdown passes per season, and Miami had a winning percentage of .563, plus two playoff wins.

In the wake of Shula’s remark, Marino was asked if things would have been different had he played his entire career under the Hall of Fame coach.

“How did I know that was going to come up?” Marino said with a chuckle. “Would it have been different? Who knows? Coach Shula was an incredible influence on my career and a guy I respect very much, and I’m real excited that he’s going to be there (in Canton) in two weeks.”

AP-ES-07-21-05 1709EDT

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