WOODSTOCK, Conn. (AP) – The puppeteer who has played Big Bird on “Sesame Street” is retiring after nearly 50 years on the show.

Caroll Spinney tells the New York Times that Thursday will be his last day on the program, which he joined from the start in 1969. In addition to Big Bird, the 84-year-old was also Oscar the Grouch.

Spinney says “I always thought, how fortunate for me that I got to play the two best Muppets?”

Spinney says the physical requirements of performing the characters had become difficult and he developed problems with his balance. He stopped doing the puppeteering for Big Bird in 2015 and now only provides the voices for him and Oscar.

His apprentice, Matt Vogel, will succeed him in the Big Bird role. He also plays Kermit the Frog.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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