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WOODSTOCK, Conn. (CBS/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.

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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.

“Caroll has been one of the leading lights of ‘Sesame Street’ from the very beginning,” said Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of Sesame Workshop. “His genius and his talent made Big Bird the most beloved yellow feathered friend across the globe. But the sheer artistry of Caroll is that he also brought Oscar to life and made him the most lovable Grouch in the world.”

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

The popular “Sesame Street” theme park, Sesame Place, where you can catch Big Bird, and all of the other popular characters, is located in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)