Tomlinson played nine seasons for San Diego and two for the New York Jets, amassing 13,684 rushing yards.
"It's been a long journey to say the least," Tomlinson said. "I want to thank all of my teammates, obviously my quarterbacks ... guys who knew how to play the game passionately about winning."
The Chargers made Tomlinson the fifth overall selection in the 2001 draft. In nine seasons in San Diego he twice (2006 and 2007) led the NFL in rushing and was chosen for the Pro Bowl five times.
"He was the very heart and soul of this organization," Chargers President Dean Spanos said. "Whenever I watched him play, I always expected to see something special."
Tomlinson signed a one-day contract with San Diego Monday so he could retire as a Charger.
His 13,684 rushing yards came on 3,174 carries. Tomlinson scored 145 rushing touchdowns, which is second all-time to Emmitt Smith (164).
Tomlinson also caught 624 passes for 4,772 yards and 17 touchdowns over his career.
His best season was perhaps 2006 when he rushed for 1,815 yards and scored 28 touchdowns while averaging 113.4 yards a game. All three figures led the NFL.