1. Kurt Warner
After he went undrafted in the 1993 NFL Draft and was subsequently cut by the Green Bay Packers, Warner began stocking grocery store shelves. But the quarterback persisted, and after dominating in the Arena Football League for three seasons, was given another shot by the St. Louis Rams in 1997. He made most of the opportunity, finishing his career with two Most Valuable Player awards, one Super Bowl ring, and two additional Super Bowl appearances.
2. Dara Torres
Torres’ return to swimming in the 2000 Sydney Olympics was surprising enough, as she earned five medals as part of Team U.S.A. However, she one-upped that feat when she came back to Olympic swimming once again in 2008. At 41 years old and 16 months after giving birth, Torres won three silver medals in Beijing.
3. Petr Cech
In a Premier League match in 2006, the then-Chelsea goalkeeper was struck in the head by an opposing player’s knee. The collision gave Cech a nearly-fatal depressed skull fracture. Despite the traumatic injury, he returned to play later in the season in superb form, including nine consecutive clean sheets.
4. Muhammad Ali
While dodging the draft, Ali had his boxing license suspended and couldn’t box competitively for three years. He returned to boxing after his conviction was overturned. Despite a rusty start, Ali regained his prior dominance, defeating boxing legends like Joe Frazier and George Foreman on his way back to the top.
5. Bethany Hamilton
In 2003, Hamilton was bitten by a shark while surfing. The attack left her without her left arm, but after just a month of recovery, she began surfing again. Hamilton would go on to surf professionally with inspirational success, nearly winning prestigious competitions such as the U.S. Open of Surfing and Fiji Women’s Pro. She has participated in competitions as recently as 2016.
6. Shaun Livingston
In Livingston’s third NBA season, he landed awkwardly on his leg in a graphic injury that resulted in three torn ligaments, a sprained MCL, a dislocated patella, and a dislocated kneecap. Doctors considered amputation, but ultimately he overcame the injury and returned to the league. Since then, he has sustained a career as an experienced veteran, winning two NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors.
7. Monica Seles
During her reign as the world’s top female tennis player, Seles was stabbed by a spectator during a Citizen Cup match in 1993. She missed two years while recovering from the attack, but eventually returned to tennis to win an Australian Open championship and reach three more Grand Slam finals.
8. Mario Lemieux
In 1993, the hockey legend was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This only kept him out of action for two months, and he still managed to win the Art Ross Trophy that season. Lemieux played five seasons after the diagnosis—winning two more Ross trophies and a Hart Memorial trophy—finally deciding to hang it up and become an owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Amazingly, the Hall-of-Famer returned to the league again from 2000 to 2006 in an unprecedented player-owner role.
9. Andre Agassi
Agassi won two Grand Slam finals and reached another in 1994 and 1995, but failed to follow up in 1996. His career bottomed out the following year between a wrist injury, failed marriage, and crystal meth bout. Still, Agassi came back in 1999 to win two Grand Slams and finish second at Wimbledon.
10. Brett Favre
After an illustrious 16-year career with the Green Bay Packers—highlighted by three consecutive MVP awards and one Super Bowl—Brett Favre called it a career on March 4, 2008, but for just 156 days before returning to the NFL to sign with the New York Jets. After an up-and-down season, he retired again—this time, for 112 days. Favre would go on to play one of the best statistical seasons of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, with a Pro Bowl appearance and almost another Super Bowl appearance before retiring for a third time. This time, it was for good.