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CONCORD, N.C. -- Tuesday afternoon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. stepped to the podium in front of family, friends, teammates and media members to discuss his choice to retire from NASCAR Cup Series competition following the 2017 season.

The driver acknowledged his gratitude at being able to make this choice of his own volition, as opposed to having it made for him.

Earnhardt also extended thanks to his fans, who he said had a large part in making his career what it has become.

"One thing that has made this career the incredible ride it's been is JR Nation," Earnhardt said. "The fan support that I received straight out of the gate was in large part because of my famous last name. But through the ups and downs, it occurred to me that the fans that stuck it out and the new ones that joined us, they were there because of the person I was and not who they wanted me to be."

Take a look at the video above for an extended look at Earnhardt's press conference.