Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov used his final programme notes Saturday to thank the club's fans for their vocal support as he tries to overcome leukaemia.
The Bulgarian midfielder has not played since March 2012, when he was diagnosed with the disease, and earlier this week he announced his retirement from football at the age of 33.
Ever since he was diagnosed, Villa's fans have risen to applaud him in the 19th minute of every game -- a reference to Petrov's shirt number.
Petrov, writing in the programme for Saturday's Premier League match at home to Chelsea, said: "Aston Villa will always remain in my heart.
"I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given here and, to the fans, I am so grateful for the way you have supported me over the years, especially during the past 14 months or so when you have stood with me and everything I have gone through, during the 19th minute.
"This has touched me profoundly.
"To have been part of this for seven years was enough to know that I have been part of something unique and special. Up the Villa!"
Paul Lambert, the Villa manager, used part of his own notes to say Petrov would always have a place at the Birmingham club.
"The 19th minute has become a symbolic expression of the special bond between Stan Petrov and the club. His retirement from football is secondary, ultimately, to his health and that he is winning his battle makes us all really happy.
"That he is here (at the game) today is inspiring to everyone associated with Villa. But the truth is that we know he'll always be here."