(SAN DIEGO) -- Perhaps the worst fear of The Walking Dead fans was confirmed Friday at the show's San Diego Comic-Con panel. Star Andrew Lincoln, who's led the show as Rick Grimes since season one, confirmed that the upcoming ninth season will be his last.
Lincoln explained that it's time for him to head back to his native England to rest and spend time with his family.
"It's funny, you know, this, these guys here, and everybody back in Atlanta, [are] the greatest surrogate family I could wish for," Lincoln said at the panel. "I do have a real family, and it is time for me to go home." The Walking Dead is shot in and around Atlanta, Georgia.
As he made the announcement, -- which was also confirmed by show creator Robert Kirkman last week -- Lincoln started to get emotional in front of thousands of fans.
"I love this show. It means everything to me," he explained. "I love the people who make this show. I promise not to cry. I've done enough crying on screen."
The cast also premiered the trailer for the ninth season, which shows the new community "building and growing" in the post-apocalyptic world.
"It's about all of us together," Lincoln's character Rick Grimes says in the trailer. "Keep doing that, they'll see we are all on the same side."
While Rick's storyline is coming to a close, Lincoln said the character will always be a part of him.
"My relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over, and a sort of large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, Stetson-wearing, zombie-slaying sheriff's deputy. From London, England," he said.
"And you know, what a thing, guys. What a thing."
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