Vertebrate rhodopsin shares with other retinal proteins the 11-cis-retinal chromophore and the light-induced 11-cis/trans isomerization triggering its activation pathway. However, only in rhodopsin the retinylidene Schiff base bond to the apoprotein is eventually hydrolyzed, making a complex regeneration pathway necessary. Metabolic regeneration cannot be short-cut, and light absorption in the active metarhodopsin (Meta) II intermediate causes anti/syn isomerization around the retinylidene linkage rather than reversed trans/cis isomerization. A new deactivating pathway is thereby triggered, which ends in the Meta III "retinal storage" product. Using time-resolved Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, we show that the identified steps of receptor activation, including Schiff base deprotonation, protein structural changes, and proton uptake by the apoprotein, are all reversed. However, Schiff base reprotonation is much faster than the activating deprotonation, whereas the protein structural changes are slower. The final proton release occurs with pK approximately 4.5, similar to the pK of a free Glu residue and to the pK at which the isolated opsin apoprotein becomes active. A forced deprotonation, equivalent to the forced protonation in the activating pathway, which occurs against the unfavorable pH of the medium, is not observed. This explains properties of the final Meta III product, which displays much higher residual activity and is less stable than rhodopsin arising from regeneration with 11-cis-retinal. We propose that the anti/syn conversion can only induce a fast reorientation and distance change of the Schiff base but fails to build up the full set of dark ground state constraints, presumably involving the Glu(134)/Arg(135) cluster.