DENVER—Still in shape, DeMarcus Ware could have returned for a 13th NFL season and likely still played at a high level.

His back wouldn’t let him.

“My back was a reason,’’ Ware said of his decision to retire during a quick press conference here Sunday prior to the game between his two former teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos. “My kids, I couldn’t play with them. I couldn’t sit down. There were a lot of reasons why, but you want to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor after football. A big part of that was my kids.’’

Ware was honored by the Broncos as a ceremonial captain during the coin toss, and then was to be recognized to the fans between the first and second quarters.

Ware said he never read his press clippings when he played and he’s enjoyed the chance to look back at his scrapbook and check out all the nice things that were written about him over the years.

He had 117.0 sacks in nine seasons with the Cowboys and 21.5 more in three seasons with the Broncos. Add it up and he’s certain to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, possibly in his first year of eligibility in 2022.

He was the captain of the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 championship team, registering 2.0 sacks in that game.

Ware was an Iron Man for most of his career as he played every game in his first eight seasons with the Cowboys and the first six games of his ninth. He began experienced disc problems in his final season in Dallas, and the injury inflamed from time to time with the Broncos.

The player he most mentored during his time with the Broncos was his fellow edge rusher Von Miller, who entered play against the Cowboys sackless in his previous five games.

“I told Von to get him some sacks,’’ Ware said. “I tell him all the time it’s about the sacks. He said he's ready. He's very pumped for the game.’’