- - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PITTSBURGH — Hines Ward believes he can still play football. The longtime Pittsburgh wide receiver known for his high-wattage smile and his bone-crunching blocks just couldn’t stomach the thought of doing it in some strange uniform on some strange field with nary a Terrible Towel in sight.

“I just wouldn’t feel right,” Ward said.

So rather than play for a 15th season — and his first outside the Steel City — a tearful Ward opted to retire Tuesday and secure a legacy unmatched in the franchise’s storied history.

“I can say I’m a Steeler for life and that’s the bottom line, that’s all I’ve really ever wanted,” Ward said.

Ward, 36, holds every significant franchise receiving record, including receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

His 1,000 career catches rank eighth all time, and he is one of only two players with at least 1,000 receptions and two Super Bowl rings. He was the MVP in Super Bowl XL with five catches for 123 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 21-10 win over Seattle.

Lichtensteiger signs tender, will remain with Redskins

Offensive lineman Kory Lichtensteiger has signed his one-year, $1.26 million restricted free agent tender to remain with the Washington Redskins.

The Redskins also announced Tuesday that defensive end Adam Carriker has signed his new deal. Carriker last week agreed to a four-year, $20 million contract with $7 million guaranteed.

Lichtensteiger returns for his third season in Washington. He started the first five games at left guard last season before going on injured reserve with torn ligaments in his right knee.

Carriker also returns for his third season with the Redskins. He had 5 1/2 sacks last season.

Around the league

49ERS: A person with knowledge of the negotiations says Alex Smith and San Francisco are working to finalize a three-year contract.

Earlier in the day, Peyton Manning was formally introduced in Denver after the 49ers pursued the four-time NFL MVP.

PACKERS: Cornerback and special teams ace Jarrett Bush agreed to a three-year deal to return to Green Bay. Bush has played in 94 regular-season games for the Packers since 2006, with seven career starts. He has three career interceptions, including two last season.

DOLPHINS: Miami safety Yeremiah Bell has been told he’ll be released, saving the Dolphins $4 million in cap space. Bell, 34, has played his entire eight-year career with Miami and made the Pro Bowl in 2009. Bell led the team in tackles each of the past four seasons.

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