The clock has started on Larry Allen's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Allen, 36, signed a ceremonial contract with the Dallas Cowboys on Friday so he can retire as a member of the organization that drafted him in the second round of the 1994 draft. A formal announcement of his retirement will be made at a later time, the Cowboys announced.

Allen retired after 14 NFL seasons. He earned trips to the Pro Bowl 11 times, including his first season with the 49ers in 2006. Last season, he was named as a Pro Bowl alternate.

"When he first came here, I didn't know what to expect," 49ers center Eric Heitmann said. "Larry Allen was somebody I always looked up to, playing high school football in Texas. My locker was next to his, and it turned out he was one of the most genuine people I've ever met.

"It was easy to figure out why he was so good. He was a tremendously physical player, but he also had a great work ethic. He loved playing football. When we'd watch film, he was always the first one to get excited about somebody else's pancake block. He loved that stuff."

Allen has built his own workout facility in the garage of his Danville home. He has racks for squats and bench press, as well as five machines. His workouts are legendary. About five years ago on the final day of the Cowboys' offseason program he bench-pressed his personal-best of 705 pounds.

"It's kind of dangerous," Allen said. "I look back at it and I could've really hurt myself."

Allen was considered the most dangerous interior offensive lineman of his era. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade team of the 1990s while with the Cowboys. Allen was originally a second-round draft pick (No. 46 overall) out of Sonoma State, an NCAA Division II school that no longer has a football program.

Allen contemplated retirement a year ago. He did not take part in the 49ers' offseason workout program and arrived a day late for training camp. It was widely believed Allen would retire after last season, but he left the door open for a return at the end of the season.

Allen was an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he had little communication with the 49ers about his plans. Prior to training camp, he told offensive line coach George Warhop that he planned to play another season, 49ers coach Mike Nolan said.

However, the 49ers were not interested in retaining Allen's services for another season. Still, Allen's locker remains untouched at the 49ers' practice facility in Santa Clara.

At the end of his final NFL season, Allen said he would take time to decide whether he wished to play another year.

"I'll get with my wife (Janelle) and my agent and figure something out," Allen said in late December. "I still love it. It's just a game that little boys play. I love coming to work and love being around the guys."

Allen is the second prominent 49ers player to announce his retirement this offseason, following defensive lineman Bryant Young. Their first year of eligibility into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is 2013.

Allen said he certainly felt the affects of his age last season. He said it took him a lot longer to recover after games. That's the biggest difference, he says, from when he entered the NFL.

"I got older and the other guys got a lot younger," he said.

He began playing football during his junior year at Centennial High School in Los Angeles when his grandmother challenged him to find something positive to do with his time, he said.

"I was pretty ornery," Allen said. "I took out all my aggressions on the field."

Allen ended up attending four high schools. He finished at Vintage High School in Napa, where he lived with his great grandmother.

With all of the moving from school-to-school, Allen's grades suffered. He could not get into any four-year school, so he ended up at Butte Community College in Oroville. After playing at Butte, Allen again did not land at any major four-year college.

Instead, he sat out a year and went to Sonoma State. There, he played at the NCAA Division II level at a school that later would drop its football program. He earned invitations to the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.

After making the jump to the NFL, Allen wasted little time in paying dividends for the Cowboys. He started 10 games as a rookie, rotating between guard and tackle.

The next season, he made it to his first Pro Bowl. From there, the honors never stopped rolling in. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s. He has been named to the Pro Bowl 11 times in his 14-year career. He did not make the team his rookie season or in 2002, when he played in only five games due to injuries.