Reggie White, the NFL's career sacks leader, is retiring because of a bad back.

"He will be missed for a lot of reasons, but in some respects it's time," Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren said in making the announcement on Sunday.The team said White, 36, who recently was criticized for insensitive remarks in a speech to Wisconsin lawmakers, would hold a news conference on Wednesday.

White, who made the Pro Bowl a record 12 times, had 101/2 sacks last year, giving him 1761/2 for his 13-year career. But he was bothered by a bulging disc in his lower back that limited his playing time.

The Packers had wanted him to return for his leadership qualities, promising he'd play about half the snaps. But that wasn't enough to persuade him to change his mind.

White did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press left on his answering machine in Green Bay.

White told Holmgren soon after the Packers' Super Bowl loss to Denver that he doubted he'd return to Green Bay for a sixth season.

But Holmgren told him to take his time in making a decision about retirement. The two met earlier this month and again Sunday, Holmgren said.

"The overriding factor was his back," Holmgren said. "He has just not felt very good this offseason."

The Packers drafted two defensive linemen in the NFL draft, but still wanted White to return.

Green Bay lost its other starting defensive end when Gabe Wilkins signed with San Francisco as a free agent in February.

White, who joined the Packers in 1993 after eight seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, was to enter the second year of a five-year contract extension that called for him to make a base salary of $2.6 million in 1998.

Because he announced his retirement before June 1, the Packers will be liable for $2.4 million - the remainder of his signing bonus - on this year's salary cap.

If he had waited until after June 1, the team would have had to count only $600,000 against the cap with the remaining $1.8 million going against the 1999 cap, which is expected to take another significant jump thanks to the $17.6 billion the television networks are pouring into the league's coffers for broadcast rights.