Andrew Lincoln has confirmed that he will be leaving The Walking Dead after series nine.

The British actor, who has starred in the post-apocalyptic series as Rick Grimes since it began in 2010, officially announced his exit at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday.

Sounding emotional, the 44-year-old actor told the Comic-Con audience: "There seems to be an elephant in the room and I think many of you want to ask a question whether or not it is my last year.

"This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes."

Fans in the audience groaned at the news.

"I love this show, it means everything to me. I promised not to cry," he said. "I’ve done enough crying onscreen…

"This has been the most extraordinary, amazing, and beautiful experience of my career."

It had previously been reported that Lincoln's character, former police officer and long-lasting survivor Rick Grimes, would be leaving the show.

During a question and answer session with fans, the actor was asked what role he would like to take next. He said he is "going to take a break for a while", explaining that while the cast of The Walking Dead is his "surrogate family", "I have a real family and it's time for me to go home".

Lincoln added: "I don't really know. It's been so much a part of my life, I breathed it for 10 years. But what I do know is I believe in the story so much and this is a really terrific season for Rick's story.

"There are a couple of things I am thinking about doing but I am so in love with Rick Grimes I cannot put him down."

He added: "The short answer is I am going to bed."

The audience at the San Diego Convention Centre then gave Lincoln a standing ovation.

Comic-con attendees were also treated to a trailer for the upcoming ninth series of The Walking Dead which is due to return in October.

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