- Associated Press - Thursday, September 26, 2013

NEW YORK — Mariano Rivera said goodbye to Yankee Stadium with hugs, tears and cheers.

Baseball’s most acclaimed relief pitcher made an emotional exit in his final appearance in the Yankees’ home pinstripes, when captain Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came to the mound to remove him with two outs in the ninth inning of a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.

“It’s time to go,” Jeter appeared to tell Rivera.

Tampa Bay won its seventh straight and leads the AL wild-card race.

During four minutes of thunderous chanting from the sellout crowd 48,675, an overcome Rivera sobbed as he buried his head on the shoulder of Pettitte, who also is retiring when the season ends Sunday, and then hugged Jeter.

“I was bombarded with emotions and feelings,” Rivera said. “Everything hit. I knew that’s the last time. Period.”

Said Pettitte: “I could feel him crying on me.”

It was an extraordinary sight in a sport where a manager almost always goes to the mound to make a pitching change. Yankees manager Joe Girardi checked with the umpires to make certain Jeter, who is on the disabled list, could take part.

“I was so thankful they came out,” Rivera said after the game.

Rivera, who retired four straight batters, wiped his eyes with both arms as he walked off and blew a kiss to the first row behind the Yankees dugout. He hugged a tearful Girardi in the dugout, grabbed a towel to dab his own tears, and came out again and doffed his cap to the crowd. All the while, the Rays remained in their dugout applauding.

Throughout the stands, fans blinked back tears.

When Rivera came off, Pettitte came out for his own curtain call as the Rays waited. After the last out, Rivera remained on the bench for a moment as “New York, New York” played.

The 43-year-old Rivera then took a final walk to the mound, where he stood, rubbed his feet on the rubber, kneeled and gathered dirt as a keepsake.

Rivera had entered with one out and two on in the eighth to a recorded introduction by Bob Sheppard, the longtime Yankees public address announcer who died three years ago.

Fans stood, applauded and chanted his name as he jogged in from the bullpen to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and continued for two minutes as he took his warmups. The entire Tampa Bay bench emptied and stood on the dirt warning track in front of the dugout and applauded.

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