Rice completes meal
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN.com
"Right now, they think, 'Okay, it's time for Jerry to disappear, it's over.' Maybe they want me to disappear, but I'm not going anywhere. I don't think I have accomplished that goal of being the best football player to ever put on a uniform, but if I can still go out there and do what I've been doing over the years, eventually people are going to have to say that."
-- Jerry Rice on ESPN's SportsCentury show (Friday, July 16, 10:30 p.m.).
Rice, the most prolific receiver in NFL history and the league's all-time touchdown leader, was voted No. 27 among North American athletes of the 20th century by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel.
Jan. 22, 1989 -- Joe Montana drove San Francisco for the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII, and the 49ers' other wide receiver, John Taylor, caught his decisive pass. But it was Rice who was named MVP for his performance in the 49ers' 20-16 comeback victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
|Jerry Rice in the end zone is a familiar NFL sight.|
Six days before the game, Rice turned his right ankle during a workout, aggravating an injury he had been nursing for three months. But there was no way he was going to miss his first Super Bowl.
By the time the game ended, it was the Bengals' defensive backs who felt the pain after a futile attempt to defend Rice, who caught 11 passes, tying Dan Ross' Super Bowl record. They accounted for 215 yards, the only time a receiver has bettered 200 yards in the Super Bowl. His 14-yard touchdown reception 57 seconds into the fourth quarter tied the game, 13-13.
Rice was held in such high esteem that Bengals safety David Fulcher said, "We didn't do a bad job on him. He only scored one touchdown."
Trailing 16-13, the 49ers took over on their own eight with
3:10 left. Montana hit Rice for seven and 17 yards in the drive. On second-and-20 at the Bengals' 45, Montana again connected with Rice, who was double covered, on a square-in. The pass was for 13 yards and Rice ran for another 14, moving the ball into field-goal range at the Bengals' 18.
On the winning touchdown, Rice went in motion and decoyed into the left flat. Taylor broke free over the middle and Montana hit him with a 10-yard strike with 34 seconds left.
Odds and ends Rice can be obsessive about his appearance (he dresses GQ-style with his designer clothes) and his surroundings. His wife Jackie has said that he sometimes comes home from a game and cleans the house. He can take three showers a day and it takes him about 30 minutes to put on his uniform, making sure it looks just right.
Unlike many college stars, Rice was not spoiled at Mississippi Valley State. He says he had just one uniform and he had to wash it after practice on his own.
The 49ers traded up to pick Rice with the 16th choice of the 1985 draft. He was the third receiver taken, behind Al Toon (Jets) and Eddie Brown (Bengals).
When Rice was a rookie, dropping more passes than he should have, one newspaper headline read: "Snap, Crackle, Drop."
Rice broke his tie with Steve Largent for the career touchdown receiving record with No. 101 on a 12-yarder from Steve Young in a 27-3 San Francisco win over Miami on Dec. 6, 1992. Largent played 14 years and 196 games; Rice set the record in eight years and 121 games.
He became the all-time touchdown leader when he scored three against the Raiders before a national TV audience on Monday Night Football (Sept. 5, 1994). His 127th TD, one more than Jim Brown and two more than Walter Payton, came when he made a spectacular catch over cornerback Albert Lewis at the goal line and tumbled into the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown in San Francisco's 44-14 win.
Going into the 1999 season, Rice has 175 touchdowns (163 receiving, 11 rushing and one on a fumble recovery), 30 more than the runner-up, Marcus Allen. He is the only non-kicker with more than 1,000 points (1,058) and he has caught a pass in a record 193 consecutive games.
Rice has accounted for a record 17,612 yards on receptions, 3,608 more than the No. 2 man, James Lofton. He is the only receiver with more than 1,000 receptions (1,139); he has 199 more than Art Monk.
Rice's 38-yard touchdown reception from Montana with 40 seconds left in the first half broke open Super Bowl XXIV, giving the 49ers a 27-3 lead over Denver. Rice caught a Super Bowl-record three TD passes in the 55-10 rout.
On the fourth play of the 49ers' 49-26 victory in Super Bowl XXIX, Rice got free for a 44-yard TD pass from Young. Though he had a wicked case of the flu and suffered a shoulder injury late in the first quarter, Rice caught 10 passes for 149 yards and tied his Super Bowl mark with three touchdowns.
Among the career Super Bowl records Rice holds are his 28 receptions, 512 receiving yards, 42 points and seven TD catches.
When he led the league with 138 points in his MVP season of 1987, he was the first wide receiver to lead the NFL since "Crazylegs" Hirsch in 1951.
Rice's most embarrassing moment came during the 1986 playoffs when, running behind the Giants defense, he dropped the ball without being hit. Instead of a touchdown and an early SF lead, the Giants recovered and went on to crush the 49ers, 49-3.
When Rice isn't featured in his team's offense, he becomes annoyed. "I'm not a selfish player," he said, "but I want the opportunity to prove to myself that I can do it."