Alison Sweeney will leave "Days of Our Lives" at the end of the season after 21 years on the NBC soap opera.

Sweeney, who plays Sami Brady, announced her decision on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," which airs Wednesday. "I'm celebrating my 21st year," she told DeGeneres, "and I decided that it's going to be my last year with the show. I have worked so much, and my daughter just turned 5 and my son is 9, and I just want to be with them."

Here's five reasons "Days" -- and its fans -- will miss the actress:

  • The actress has actually played three roles on the popular soap. She started in 1987 playing Adrienne Johnson as a child in flashback scenes. In January 1993, she was hired to play Sami Brady, one of the twins born to Marlena and Roman Brady. In 2007, she doubled up to play Sami Brady's great aunt Colleen Brady.

  • Sweeney, 37, is not only a fan favorite, but well regarded among industry experts. She received four Soap Opera Digest Awards and in 2007 received a fan-voted Daytime Emmy award.

  • In the 1990s, she was the target of tabloid reports because of her weight gain, which she documented in a 2004 memoir, "All the Days of My Life (So Far)." Her weight loss and eventual addition as host of "The Biggest Loser" in 2007 has made her a role model for girls and women struggling with weight issues.

  • Sweeney's character has been a central figure in many storylines as bad girl Sami. Among her favorite storylines were her conviction of Franco's murder and subsequent stint on death row and her shooting love interest EJ.

  • Critics praised Sweeney for her performance when Sami's son, Will, came out in 2011. Sami's shocked (and self-centered) reaction was seen as less stereotypical than having the dad (played by Bryan Dattilo) react in that manner.