Defoe made an emotional return to Wearside on deadline day in January but has now made the ‘really tough decision’ to bring an end to his playing days.
In a statement posted on social media, the 39-year-old said it ‘is the right time to bow out’.
“After 22 years in the game, I have decided to retire from professional football. It’s been a really tough decision, and one I have discussed with my family and those closest to me,” Defoe said.
“I made my professional debut at 17 years old in 1999, and I feel now is the right time to bow out. I have had an incredible journey, and have met some incredible people on the game.
“Football will always remain in my blood, and it gives me great pride and satisfaction to look back on the blessed career I’ve had. I now look forward to spending some quality time with my friends and family before moving forward on this next chapter in my career.
“Thank you to all the fans have from each club I’ve played for. The love I have received and endured throughout my career will never be forgotten, and I will always have a special bond with you all. Thank you also to my amazing team mates, coaches, and staff for playing an integral part in my career.
“Lastly, I want to say thank you to my mum. You gave me a ball at two years old, and you made me believe my dream could happen. All that I am is because of you, and I owe everything to you and God.”
Defoe made seven appearances after returning to the club, and remains a legendary figure to many supporters after his goalscoring feats during his first spell at the club, including a memorable volley against Newcastle United at the Stadium of Light.
Defoe’s departure leaves Sunderland short of striking options for the remainder of the season, though Alex Neil remains hopeful that Nathan Broadhead will return from a hamstring problem after the international break.