Actor Anthony Geary, whose character Luke Spencer's marriage to Laura in 1981 on "General Hospital" was the biggest moment in daytime TV history, is leaving the soap opera after nearly three decades.

It was Geary's decision to leave, and he'll be written out of the ABC show for an episode that will air this summer, executive producer Frank Valentini said.

"Anthony is our friend and a part of our television family, but, as difficult as this may be, we understand and respect that this is his choice," Valentini said.

More than 30 million people tuned in to watch Luke marry Laura. Actress Genie Francis, who played Laura but hasn't been on the soap since 2013, will return to participate in the story of Luke's exit.

Geary, 67, began playing Luke in 1978 but left the show in 1984. He returned in 1991 but, tired of the character, played Luke's lookalike cousin. Audiences didn't like it, however, so the cousin was killed off and Geary resumed playing Luke in 1993.

Geary told that he was "weary of the grind" and had been for 20 years.

"There was a point after my back surgery last year where it became clear to me that my time is not infinite," he said. "And I really don't want to die, collapsing in a heap, on the 'GH' set one day."

ABC didn't say how Geary's character will be written out of the show. "If I were in his place, I'd go to Tibet or Nepal on some kind of spiritual journey," Geary said. "He needs to be at peace."

Associated Press