"I've grappled with the decision for a long time," Burton said. "It's hard to even really talk about it because I've been there for 21 years, and it's been such a blessing to be able to have a job that long."
Burton says "General Hospital" has been like home. But home for his family is now an old farmhouse on 17 acres in Nashville, Tenn., a city he got to know while filming the 2001 film "The Last Castle."
"I spent about four months there, and my wife and I, we loved it so much that we said if we ever had a chance to raise our kids there, we would," he said.
Burton, the businessman, has invested in a Chicago beer bar called The Beer Market and a Studio City gourmet pizza restaurant, Crust. He is also working on a project with "General Hospital" guest star James Franco. He also wants to produce and direct.
And what will be the future of his band, Port Chuck?
"Port Chuck is going to live on. We're going to go out on the road, actually, in February, for another, I think, 14 cities in 14 days. We're going to go crazy," he said with a smile.
ABC says you'll be able to watch Burton on the show into November. Fans have been watching him for two decades, but in a matter of weeks, he is going to be gone. He knows his final days will be tough.
"I guess it would be easier to say, 'I'm leaving,' and then be gone and not have to be there for another month," he said as he fought back tears. "It'll be hard."
Burton said he has offered to stay on longer if producers need more time to wrap up storylines, but when he does finally go, he's taking three months off to spend time with his wife and kids.