THERE HE GOES AGAIN . . . FOR THE LAST TIME?

He’ll be 37 in a few weeks, and his army haircut and grizzled whiskers now look as if they’re dusted with snow. But if Sunday was the last glimpse Detroit will get of Brett Lorenzo Favre, it was not the portrait of a creaky old man. Favre was every magical thing he ever has been over the years against the Lions, throwing three touchdowns, scrambling out of trouble, leaving the field with a sack full of yards, embarrassed defensive backs and, oh, yes, a victory.

So here’s a salute to the quarterback’s quarterback. Long after Sunday is forgotten as another blown Detroit opportunity, Favre’s performance will be remembered. This was his first victory of what surely is his last season, the 20th time in 29 tries that he has beaten the Lions. Afterward, in the cramped visitors’ locker room, he grinned like a proud papa. He pulled on a striped, short-sleeved polo shirt that looked as if he might have worn it to his college English class, then joked with a younger, more stylish teammate, “If you’ve got a shirt like this, you’re in trouble.”

He poked a can of antiperspirant under each armpit, gave a few sprays, pulled on his jeans and work boots, then went to talk to the media. His slow gait and weathered face suggested Dennis Quaid in the film “Everybody’s All-American”- only Favre looked happy.

A few hours earlier, in the first quarter, he’d completed a 75-yard catch-and run touchdown pass to rookie Greg Jennings. Favre ran all the way down the field, jumping and fist-pumping as if it were his first game.

“Do you still celebrate like a kid out there?” Favre was asked.

“I do, but I gotta stop,” he said. “I get too tired.” Spreading the wealth around

Well, that was the only time he seemed fatigued. Favre, as his coaches have said, may not be able to throw the ball through a wall anymore, but he still can dent it. And he certainly can finesse it. Several times Sunday, when he wasn’t whipping passes to 10 receivers, he floated them feather-like into their hands. Another time, he moved the pocket, waited, waited, then rifled a bullet into the end zone. Touchdown.

Favre finished 25-for-36 with 340 yards, no sacks and a quarterback rating that would let him teach at Hogwarts. He has more victories against the Lions than any other franchise and he has never lost to them in Green Bay.

“I didn’t even know that,” he said. “But … today, nothing else matters. I’ve played in a lot of big games and have grown to appreciate wins, period.”

The Lions can attest to that. They remain winless on the year. And once again, they have watched a Favre-led team damage their season. It was bad enough in January 1994, at the Silverdome, when Favre knocked them out of the playoffs with an amazing, last-minute touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe. Or the next season, when his Packers held Barry Sanders to minus-one yard rushing to end Detroit’s postseason again. Da man in green since 1992

But it’s more than that. Every season, Lions fans watch with smoldering envy as Favre embodies all the things Detroit quarterbacks seem to lack: savvy, control, creativity and yank-by-the-face mask leadership. It’s hard to count how many Lions quarterbacks have taken snaps since Favre began his streak of consecutive games started in 1992.

But no one in silver and blue has come close to the man in green.

“That cat,” Detroit defensive end Kalimba Edwards told reporters, “is going to the Hall of Fame. … He’s still as good as he was.”

And, remember, this is a guy only one college wanted, a guy Atlanta traded for a draft pick, and a guy who often plays best under the most dire of circumstances (remember his Monday night masterpiece the day after his father died?).

Brett Favre has been around so long, he should be photographed in sepia. And yet after his news conference, he walked through the tunnels and asked an AP reporter, “Is there anything to eat around here?”

You mean besides our team?

There goes Brett Favre, the best quarterback we’re likely to see in a long, long time. Sunday was no fun. But it was undeniably fitting. And even the Lions should wipe the blood from their lips long enough to raise a hand in salute.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Order tickets for the charity launch at the Fox Theatre of Albom’s new novel, “For One More Day,” at 248-433-1515 or ticketmaster.com. Wednesday’s event at the Fox Theatre features Tony Bennett, Hank Azaria and Joe Dumars. Tickets are $40.

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