Andrew Lincoln discussed for the first time publicly his upcoming Season 9 departure from "The Walking Dead."

Lincoln has played Rick Grimes, a Georgia sheriff who becomes the leader of a band of survivors in the zombie apocalypse, since the show's inception.

"This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes. I love this show. It means everything to me," he told the crowd at San Diego Comic-Con Friday.

"I love the people who make this show. I'm particularly fond of the people who watch this show."

He added: "It's been such a part of my life. I've breathed it for 10 years. I believe in the story so much, but this is a really terrific season for Rick's story."

Earlier this week, comic-book creator and television producer Robert Kirkman confirmed Lincoln would leave the show.

"It does make the differences between the comic and the show more pronounced," Kirkman told IMDB interviewer Kevin Smith, referring to how Rick and his son Carl, who was recently killed in the show, remain alive in the graphic novels.

"But at the end of the day, it's all about Andrew Lincoln. This is a human being. This is someone I have known for almost a decade, somebody that I love."

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"He's been sweating in Georgia, away from his family, for so long."

Photo credit: The Walking Dead