Stunned Ryan Giggs said he was "in total shock" after winning the 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
The Welshman, who has 11 Premier League titles with Manchester United, said he had watched the programme as a child.
Boss Sir Alex Ferguson sent a text message to congratulate the 36-year-old after a landslide win against nine other short-listed contenders.
"The names of genuine legends of world sport are on this trophy. I never dreamed I would win it," said Giggs.
Giggs told BBC Sport he had assumed that eventual runner-up Jenson Button, or Jessica Ennis - who finished third - would probably win the coveted award.
"To win the Formula 1 World Championship was a great achievement for Jenson and I watched Jessica win the world heptathlon gold, which was unbelievable," he said.
Giggs reflects on his prestigious career
"I'm really pleased and am in total shock to win the award, and just tremendously proud.
"I was honestly surprised just to be on the list of nominees."
On stage, Giggs joked that his two young children Liberty and Zach were to go to bed after seeing their father pick up the big award.
Manager Ferguson, who has seen Giggs become a legend during two decades at Old Trafford, admitted the midfielder's amazing career is unlikely to ever be matched.
"It'll never be done again," Ferguson told BBC Radio Manchester.
"No manager will have a player for 20 years and watch him excel and delight you and all the fans.
"He's a God in the dressing room. If you'd seen the players in Moscow in the dressing room after he broke Bobby's (Charlton) record, and after he won his 10th title, the players made a genuine presentation on behalf of all of them and then they started singing that song "that boy Giggs".
"The most important thing is a lot of young players go to him for advice.
"We use him particularly when we sign young players, he and Gary Neville and Paul Scholes will be advisors to young players, particularly those who don't have agents."
Asked if Giggs will go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time, Ferguson said: "Absolutely, there's no question about that.
"I go back to that day in 1986 when I first started pestering the life out of him (to sign).
"I thank my lucky stars for it, because I've been able to experience and enjoy watching him for 20 years."
Ferguson added: "His best years have been his last years, the later years.
"There was a period, when he was about 30, when he was getting persistent hamstring problems but we identified that it was his back.
"He then took up a course of yoga and also pre-training and post-training warm-ups which has enabled him to combat that problem and has brought him to the best years of his life in terms of the quality of his game."
Bruce battles family to see Giggs honour
Button, the long-time award favourite, admitted he was disappointed to finish runner-up, but took the vote graciously.
"Ryan has had an amazing career and it's been a very tough competition this year among so many people who have achieved a lot in sport," said the 29-year-old driver.
"At first I thought I was third because Jessica sounds a bit like Jenson when you start pronouncing it. But second is great, so I'm happy, but as I'm competitive, a little bit disappointed as well."
Ennis, 23, was given a rousing reception by the crowd in her home city of Sheffield.
"I'd just like to thank everyone for their support from last year when I was injured," she said.
"The home crowd was amazing, the atmosphere was brilliant and everyone on the list was great."
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