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Ray Lewis’ retirement draws officials’ attention

This time of the year, many Marylanders and the officials they elect go a little crazy with Ravens playoff fever.

Portions of Baltimore and other towns across the state are often lit in purple, including Baltimore’s City Hall. Team flags fly in front of homes and outside of car windows.

Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis will retire after the teams' playoff run. (Photo: Associated Press)

But inside linebacker Ray Lewis’ announcement Wednesday that he will retire from the National Football League after 17 seasons leading the Ravens’ defense has made Sunday’s home playoff game versus the Indianapolis Colts an even more popular talking point for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Martin O’Malley.

It was yet another instance of Maryland’s elected officials being quick to use sports as a way to identify with a segment of their constituencies that sometimes worship professional athletes and the teams they play for. It was just last month, for example, that Rawlings-Blake weighed in on the Ravens’ firing of  frequently-criticized offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

O’Malley’s statement came Wednesday, when he called Lewis “a man of dignity, respect and character.

“We will always be grateful for his love of the people of Baltimore and fans everywhere,” O’Malley said. “He has given football fans of all ages hope and inspired us all to reach beyond our dreams. Though we will miss him on the field, we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Rawlings-Blake statement came Thursday, after city employees finished installing purple light fixtures in preparation for the teams’ playoff game Sunday. It’s become tradition for purple lights to fill the city skyline — but this time it’s different, the mayor said.

“This year has an added significance with the announced retirement of Ray Lewis,” she said. “As he carries the team through the playoffs to the Super Bowl, we must celebrate his Hall of Fame career and how he has helped define Baltimore football for a generation of fans.

“The city’s entertainment industry benefits greatly from the thousands of fans that watch the games together — at the stadium, in bars, or at home.”