SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jerry Rice’s No. 80 now hangs from the upper deck at Candlestick Park alongside all the other San Francisco 49ers greats. For Rice, he appreciated getting to say goodbye to all the people and fans who meant so much along the way.
Rice’s jersey was retired during a halftime ceremony Monday night, when the Niners hosted the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
The Hall of Fame wide receiver—known for his tireless work ethic even in the late stages of his career—played the first 16 of his 21 NFL seasons with San Francisco, from 1985-2000.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Rice said. “This brings closure to everything. This is where it started, this is where it ends.”
Fans chanted “Jerry! Jerry!” for much of the night. Rice served as an honorary team captain and was formally presented with his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring.
Rice, sporting his gold Hall of Fame jacket, sprinted out from one end zone to midfield and greeted the officials. The captains from both teams quickly joined him. Afterward, Rice walked along the sideline and smiled and waved to cheering fans.
Rice’s former quarterbacks and fellow Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young attended, as did Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark. His coaches cheered him on, too: George Seifert and Steve Mariucci—and the son of the late legend Bill Walsh, Craig Walsh, also took part in his father’s place.
“When you get something like that, it’s not an individual thing,” Rice said. “It’s about all the players and coaches beside me that made it happen.”
A large 80 was shaded white into the empty orange seats at Candlestick Park hours before kickoff.
Rice holds virtually every significant receiving mark, including most career receptions (1,549); yards receiving (22,895); total touchdowns (208); and combined net yards (23,546) in his career with San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle.
This moment also celebrated Rice’s induction into the Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievements and contributions to the organization.
“It means everything to me because I had so many great moments in this stadium,” Rice said. “It’s the pinnacle for me because I get to say goodbye to the fans.”
Boyz II Men sang the national anthem, the threesome sporting Rice’s red No. 80 uniform.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)