"I'm not finishing because I don't want it anymore. It's just enough is enough. I've got to accept that as a sportsman."
Vickery's final game for Wasps was on 25 September and brought a symmetry to his career, coming against Gloucester at Kingsholm, the ground where he began his top-flight career.
"Prior to the Gloucester game the conversations with Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks and owner Steve Hayes were centred on extending my contract for another year," reflected Vickery.
"Four or five weeks down the line and I have to stop playing and for me that is just horrible. In my head it feels like admitting defeat."
The Devon-born prop was a member of the triumphant England team at the 2003 World Cup and won 73 caps for his country.
'Sad' Vickery knows it's time to move on
He played in every game of the 2003 campaign in Australia, scoring his first Test try in the 35-22 victory against Samoa.
"Phil is a great bloke and epitomised the team-mate who you always wanted to play a game of rugby with," said current England manager and 2003 skipper Martin Johnson.
Vickery's retirement means that of the starting XV that defeated Australia in the final in Sydney only Steve Thompson, Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall and Ben Cohen are still playing top-flight rugby.
Full-back Jason Robinson retired in 2007 but returned to the game this year, playing at National League Two side Fylde.
Vickery skippered the side to the 2007 World Cup final, when coach Brian Ashton's England were defeated by South Africa in Paris.
He won five caps for the Lions, touring Australia in 2001 and South Africa in 2009.
Honours: England - 73 caps, British & Irish Lions - 5 caps
Clubs: Wasps, Gloucester, Redruth, Bude
Weight: 120kg/18st 13lb
Height: 1.91m/6ft 3in
The tight-head prop endured a terrible time during the first Test against the Springboks last year and was withdrawn after 44 minutes, although after being left out for the second Test he returned for the final game of the series, performing well in what turned out to be his final international appearance.
He played for Gloucester from 1995 until 2006 but left after a third back operation having missed the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand.
Vickery rediscovered his best rampaging form and helped the London club win the 2007 Heineken Cup.
He was a member of the side that won the league title in 2008 but he missed most of last season after a neck operation.
"Rugby has given me an awful lot and I still love the game," said Vickery.
"As well as Wasps, I will miss playing for England dearly. To be able to stand on a rugby field and sing our national anthem was truly brilliant, an amazing experience and one which I have never taken for granted."
Wasps director of rugby Hanks added: "I think he will go down as one of the greats of his generation.
"We cannot replace Phil but we do need to replace a spot in the squad.
"There is an intention to have Phil involved with Wasps in some way. We see roles for him around the team."
Vickery himself has expressed a wish to remain in the game, but will take time to assess his options.
The prop had hoped to force his way back into the England reckoning ahead of the 2011 World Cup before his latest injury forced his retirement.
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