Former Sunderland and Irish international footballer Niall Quinn, said he felt "surprised and humbled" to receive an honorary MBE at a ceremony in his native Dublin.
Niall Quinn's wife Gillian and family were also at the ceremony
The award was made in recognition of the now retired player's "outstanding services to international football and his contributions to charities".
At the presentation, the soccer star was described as "an ambassador for football".
After receiving the award, he said: "I was very surprised and very humbled really.
"It coincided with my move back to Ireland. I'd had such a good time in the UK. It was a smashing end to almost 20 years there."
He said the award capped off a wonderful life he had led in England.
The British ambassador to Ireland, Stewart Eldon, formally presented the award at his Dublin residence.
The ambassador said: "I was delighted to be able to present this award to Niall Quinn.
"It has been said that sportsmen don't build character - they reveal it.
"Here, we congratulate a sportsman widely admired throughout these islands, whose character and achievements are a real example to us all."
Quinn started his career at Arsenal in 1983, spending seven years at Highbury before moving to Manchester City in 1990.
The striker's last appearance for his final club, Sunderland, was in October 2002.
He won 91 caps for the Republic of Ireland and received widespread acclaim when he donated the proceeds from his benefit match to charity.
Quinn is patron of the Glass Slipper Appeal, which raises money for hospitals in the Sunderland area, in an effort to help their fight against breast cancer.
He also has a close association with the Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin.
He was accompanied at today's presentation by his wife Gillian, nine-year-old daughter Aisling, six-year-old son Michael, mother Mary, father Billy and father-in-law Michael Roe.
He said the careers of some players went downhill in their last few years, but added: "I was absolutely sure that wasn't going to happen to me.
Passion and pride
"I left Sunderland before they got relegated. It would have been hard, I think, to stay for that year so may be that was a good decision."
Quinn said it had been a, "wrench" to leave Sunderland but that he came back to Ireland proud of what he had done.
At Sunderland he saw a passion and pride that he had not seen in any other club.
Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Quinn for donating the proceeds of his testimonial match between Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland last year to children's charities.
The honour makes Quinn a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
It is presented on merit to non-British citizens by the Queen on the advice of the Foreign Office to people considered to have made an important contribution
to British interests.