The former Manchester United striker suffered a broken leg and a dislocated ankle when blocking the Liverpool defender's shot during a FA Cup fifth-round clash against at Anfield in 2006.
Sir Alex Ferguson described the incident – which left Smith with “about 10 pins” in his ankle – as one of the worst injuries he had seen.
Smith, now 37, made his comeback for United seven months later after his horrific injury and was still playing for League Two side Notts County until last summer.
But, in an interview with The Mirror, Smith admitted he is still suffering the consequences.
The 19-cap England international said: “I knew with the injury it would be touch and go whether I could carry on playing – the surgeon said that.
“It would have been easier to walk away and people remember you as a top Premier League player. But I didn’t want that, because I loved playing football. Your love of it makes you go through the pain barrier.
“Most of people I have played with, and managers, have respected me for staying in football when it would have been easy to walk away. But I dropped down to the Championship, dropped down to League One and dropped down to League Two.
“Loads of people would say to me, ‘Why I am bothering?’ Whether I was earning £500-a-week or nothing, if people felt I could still contributed I wanted to keep playing.
“The injury made me a better person after doing so well so young.
“I learnt at any time, football can be over. I am lucky through sheer grit and determination I carried on playing.
“The good people I met lower down the leagues probably drove me on to stay in football longer. But by the end, the day-to-day training was doing more harm than good. I couldn’t compete at a level I felt I could easily before. I get out of bed and can’t walk properly, my ankle is stiff all the time.
“I went for a run in the summer and managed to do a couple of miles but stopped and started walking because my ankle was hurting. I went back last month and the surgeon said, 'I don’t want you doing any straight-line running', just because it will damage the joint.
“It is always difficult to walk away but when you see someone and they don’t want you running, you know it is the right decision. I have no regrets, for me I see retiring early being the easy option.”
Smith started his career at Leeds United and then joined Manchester United in 2004 for £7 million.
He then went on to join Newcastle three years later, making 84 appearances.
In 2012 Smith dropped down the divisions with MK Dons and Notts County.
After retiring this summer due to being released by Notts County, Smith is applying for a US visa so that he can move to Florida and is set to coach youngsters.
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