NFL icon Tom Brady confirmed his retirement from the sport on Tuesday, officially bringing the curtain down on a glittering 22-season career.

The 44-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar, widely regarded as the greatest quarterback in history, made the announcement in a post on Instagram.

Brady, winner of a record seven Super Bowls, said he was quitting after deciding he could no longer make the "competitive commitment" to continue.

"I have always believed the sport of football is an 'all-in' proposition -- if a 100% competitive commitment isn't there, you won't succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game," Brady wrote.

"This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore.

"I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention."

Brady's announcement draws a line under three days of feverish speculation that he was preparing to call time on his career.

News of his imminent retirement had been reported by ESPN citing multiple sources close to the player on Saturday.

However, Brady did not comment, with other reports saying he had not decided one way or another.

NFL superstar Tom Brady has officially confirmed his retirement from the NFL
NFL superstar Tom Brady has officially confirmed his retirement from the NFL GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP / Maddie Meyer

On Monday, the former New England Patriots star had been coy during an appearance on his own podcast, saying he was considering his future on a day-to-day basis.

"I think when the time's right I'll be ready to make a decision one way or another, just like I said last week," he had said.

But those remarks turned out be just one final piece of misdirection from the veteran signal-caller, a five-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and three-time NFL season MVP a record tally of 243 regular-season victories.

Brady set NFL career passing records with 7,263 completions on 11,317 attempts for 84,520 yards and 624 touchdowns.

The bulk of his career was spent with the New England Patriots, where he won six Super Bowls in tandem with head coach Bill Belichick.

Brady did not mention the Patriots or Belichick in his initial farewell message on Tuesday, but later thanked the team in a message on Twitter.

Brady's career was studded with milestones and records that may never be beaten. He is the oldest player to play in and win a Super Bowl, a stage he graced on no fewer than 10 occasions.

Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl in his first season after leaving New England
Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl in his first season after leaving New England GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP / Michael Reaves

His collection of Vince Lombardi Trophy victories also includes his memorable performance in the 2016-2017 championship game, when he led the Patriots back from a 25-point deficit to complete the greatest Super Bowl comeback in history.

Brady added an improbable seventh Super Bowl to his collection in 2021 after opting to join Tampa Bay in 2020. He led the Buccaneers back into the playoffs this season, but they exited in the divisional round with a 30-27 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

"My playing career has been such a thrilling ride, and far beyond my imagination, and full of ups and downs," Brady said Tuesday.

"When you're in it every day, you really don't think about any kind of ending. As I sit here now, however, I think of all the great players and coaches I was privileged to play with and against -- the competition was fierce and deep, JUST HOW WE LIKE IT.

"I will remember and cherish these memories and re-visit them often. I feel like the luckiest person in the world."

Messages of congratulations beneath the Instagram post read like a who's who of the sporting world on Tuesday, with many saluting Brady as the "G.O.A.T (greatest of all time)" or using a goat emoji.

"Get your butt up and do one more year," joked NBA icon Shaquille O'Neal, before adding: "Love u bro. Absolute joy to watch."

Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps added: "Congrats bro! Enjoy the next chapter."

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, former world footballer of the year Kaka and England soccer captain Harry Kane were among other athletes congratulating Brady.

Former Denver Broncos quarterback and Hall-of-Famer John Elway described Brady as a "true winner who handled himself with class throughout his entire career."

"Even with those seven Super Bowl rings, he never lost that competitive fire to be the best," Elway said.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, meanwhile, paid tribute to Brady as "one of the greatest to ever play in the NFL."

"An incredible competitor and leader, his stellar career is remarkable for its longevity but also for the sustained excellence he displayed year after year," Goodell said.

Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians meanwhile said Brady joined the team in 2020 as "the greatest football player of all time."

"He set a standard and helped create a culture that took our team to the mountaintop," Arians said.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Brady's career had been a "dream come true" for fans of the franchise.

"You didn't have to be a Patriots fan to respect and appreciate his competitiveness, determination and will to win that fueled his success," Kraft said in a statement. "As a fan of football, it was a privilege to watch."