Mike Leonard announced his retirement on Thursday from "TODAY," after more than three decades of reporting on "ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things."

After he paid tribute to his wife Cathy, who he said inspires him to "see the beauty in our everday existence," morning show anchor Matt Lauer spoke of Leonard's contribution to the show with the stories he reported on.

"Your stories...are a microcosm of you," Lauer said, wiping away tears after Leonard's final segment aired Thursday. "They all have incredible heart, they're told with kindness, and hope, and modesty. They are understated and yet so powerful, and that is you in a nutshell."

Savannah Guthrie added, "You have an amazing gift, an amazing talent."

Leonard said one of his favorite stories on "Leonard's Look" is the one about a 63-year-old Chicago mailman and father of two who always smiles and laughs, greeting everyone cheerfully throughout the day. He tries to be "kind and nice to everybody" and treat people with respect and dignity, however, he himself experienced discrimination and was met with violence growing up in Mississippi for being African African.

Rumors surfaced earlier this month that Lauer would be fired from the show if "TODAY" ratings would not improve. A report noted that the 54-year-old  would lose his $25 million-a-year salary if the morning show's ratings does not increase by February 2013. However, "Today" executive Alexandra Wallace came forward to deny the claims.

"There is absolutely no truth to this," Wallace told the New York Post. "There have been some recent outrageous claims regarding Matt and the 'Today' show, and an awful lot of piling on from nameless, faceless sources. These stories are wrong and irresponsible."