In the last week, highlights from his history-making Olympic races played on the giant scoreboard televisions at the CHI Health Centre.
Phelps told the crowd gathered for the US Olympic swimming trials how odd it felt to not to be competing.
He sprinted onto the pool deck to hug friend Chase Kalisz after he won the 400-meter individual medley.
Phelps joined the NBC broadcast of the event with Mike Tirico and Rowdy Gaines for a segment.
The only place you couldn’t find Phelps at the eight-day event that ends Sunday was in the pool.
“For me, it was walking onto the pool deck and I felt chills running up my body,” Phelps said during a brief news conference held via video.
“I almost had to stop and just let everything sink in because it was semi-overwhelming. I had to take a lot of deep breaths. I felt the tears pretty much start coming up.”
He retired after the Rio de Janeiro Games as the most decorated Olympian of all-time, with 28 medals, 23 of them gold.
Even as American records fall and a new generation of swimmers establish themselves at the first trials without Phelps since 1996, he continues to cast a long shadow. “He changed the sport,” said Ryan Lochte, the 12-time Olympic medalist.—AP