Lewis eyes perfect ending
Ray Lewis continues to divide opinion across America but he will have a sizeable fan club cheering him on from London at Sunday's Super Bowl.
The Baltimore Ravens star will add the final flourish to a glittering 17-year resume if his Baltimore Ravens can beat the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.
But there are two sides to Lewis's story.
He has spent the week leading up to his final professional game answering questions about alleged use of banned substances while a series of career retrospectives in the American media have focused more on a decade-old double murder case than his 13 Pro Bowl nominations and his previous Super Bowl victory.
The charges against Lewis were dropped back in 2000, but he still pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and the case has dogged the 37-year-old ever since.
That is the bad side. On the other is the man who is known not only as the Ravens' inspirational captain but as a committed charity worker.
It was the second of those two characters who showed up almost unannounced in Britain last summer to coach the London Warriors in the build-up to their national title final against the London Blitz.
The Warriors had written to Lewis inviting him to speak, but never for a moment expected him to actually turn up.
Coach Tony Allen remembers the whole thing as a "fairytale".
"We wrote a letter to Ray and within three days he got back to us and said he would love to do it," Allen told Press Association Sport. "We kept thinking, 'This is crazy'. We were waiting all the time for an email to arrive apologising and saying something had come up, but he really did come."
The Warriors won Lewis over with their message of using sport to divert kids away from gang culture and crime, something he could relate to after growing up in one of the poorest areas of Florida.
"The London Warriors story resonated with me for a number of reasons but mostly because of where the kids come from - most of the kids come from neighbourhoods like I came from," Lewis said.
"Ninety per cent of these young men are either going through or have been going through the same things I went through. They just need some form of motivation and, for me, that was the reason I came over."
Lewis spent almost a week with the Warriors, giving speeches to the players and the local community, and taking part in coaching sessions.
Television presenter Vernon Kay, who plays defensive back for the Warriors and played a key role in getting Lewis to come, said: "I was pinching myself. I couldn't believe Ray Lewis was training with the London Warriors on our terrible 3G pitch in south London. This was a massive thing for our club and it is not an exaggeration to say that visit from Ray is going to change lives. The guy is a legend."
They still went on to lose to the Blitz in the title game, but Allen says they got something much bigger out of the experience.
"It inspired our kids," he said. "They had someone who had come through all of the challenges he had faced and been successful. It showed them that if they apply themselves they can come through it too."
Lewis has this week refused to speak about what happened in Atlanta 13 years ago, when two men died after an altercation at a Super Bowl party, but says that is because he does not want the families of the victims to be put through it all again.
Lewis was charged along with two other men, but his charges were dismissed when he testified against the others. He admitting giving misleading evidence the morning after the party, while the two other men were later acquitted.
Allen knows both sides of Lewis's story, but believes his honesty was the reason he connected with the Warriors.
"Some of our kids were very direct in their questioning of him, but he was very open about his ups and his downs, and he shared a lot with us," he said. "That's when the kids connected.
"He has a special way of coming across and touching people with his honesty. He lays himself on the table."
And whatever happens on Sunday, Allen is sure of Lewis's place in NFL history.
"We can talk about where he's come from and it's obvious what he's had to do to achieve what he has, coming through adversity and the mistakes he's made which he openly talks about, but the man is one of the greatest linebackers in the history of football," he said.
Lewis has said he intends to come back to the Warriors in the future. After Sunday, he may arrive wearing a second Super Bowl ring on his fingers.