The last time Steve Jobs left Apple, he walked away from a battle he should have won, but didn’t. It was 1985 and the company’s board of directors decided Jobs’ creative genius was a threat to their business objectives, so they voted him out.

He wasn’t gone too long. Two CEOs later Apple fell into what many believed was a death spiral. The cover of Wired magazine’s June, 1997 edition featured the distinctive Apple logo wearing a crown of thorns. The issue’s one-word headline: ‘Pray.’

The answer to that prayer was the return of Steve Jobs to the company he had helped create. It was the right answer. Under Jobs’ leadership Apple produced innovation after innovation that transformed music, gaming, personal computing, animation and telephone technology. Just a few weeks ago Apple briefly surpassed Exxon-Mobil as the largest publicly-traded company in the world.

“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” said Art Levinson, Chairman of Genentech, on behalf of Apple’s Board, in a press release responding to Steve Jobs’ recent announcement that he is stepping down as CEO of Apple.

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs wrote in a letter to Apple’s board on Aug. 18.  “Unfortunately, that day has come.” In the brief resignation letter he suggested Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Tim Cook, should be his successor.

Wall Street’s response to Jobs’ resignation was a swift 5 percent hit, wiping billions of dollars off its stock market value as traders worry about the company’s future without its visionary leader.

Jobs insists stockholders and customers have nothing to fear. “I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”

That new role? Chairman of the Board, a position that will allow Jobs to continue to influence the company’s creative direction from a distance, sans the daily responsibilities he admits he can no longer meet due to circumstances he declined to disclose.

Although Jobs didn’t mention his medical condition as the reason for his departure, he has battled pancreatic cancer since 2004, and received a liver transplant in 2009, leaving most to speculate whether his health may be deteriorating.

If that is the case, now is the time for the millions of Steve Jobs fans and Apple admirers around the world to do what that1997 Wired cover suggested…