Gore, 39, would watch from afar, rooting for the team that selected him in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft and riding the highs and lows that came during the final half-dozen years of his NFL career.
All of which made it a no-brainer for Gore to ensure that when the time came, he would walk away from the game as a member of the team that he never stopped loving. On Thursday, the Niners announced that Gore signed a one-day contract to retire as a 49er and that he will be inducted into the franchise's Edward DeBartolo Sr. Hall of Fame at a game during the 2022 NFL season.
"Frank had to overcome many challenges upon entering the NFL and now leaves the game not only as one of the best backs in NFL history, but one of the best football players ever," Niners CEO Jed York said in a statement. "Frank's 16-year NFL career is a testament to his durability, having played in more games than any other running back in league history. His grit, toughness and commitment to greatness earned him the respect of his coaches, teammates and opponents. We knew this day would come when Frank would retire a 49er and we look forward to The Faithful celebrating his induction into the 49ers Hall of Fame in Levi's Stadium this upcoming season."
Gore's official retirement comes after 16 NFL seasons, 10 of which were spent forging a resume as the most productive running back in 49ers history. During his time in San Francisco, Gore became the franchise leader in career rushing yards (11,703) and touchdowns (64), and his 13,956 yards from scrimmage are second only to receiver Jerry Rice in franchise annals.
Along the way, Gore earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2006 and five Pro Bowl nods, and he was a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2010s.
All of that came after the Niners used the No. 65 pick in 2005 on Gore even though he twice tore the ACL in his left knee twice while at the University of Miami.
"One of the very first things I told the 49ers organization when they drafted me in 2005 was that they got the right guy," Gore said. "I knew early on that I wouldn't let my college career define me in regard to injuries and that I would have to outwork a lot of people to get to where I wanted to be. After 10 years in San Francisco and 16 years in the NFL, I can confidently say that I put all I had into the game of football. Football was and is everything to me. From meetings and film study to practice and just being in the locker room, all of it meant the world to me. I am happy to officially close this chapter of my life and proud of what I was able to accomplish and the legacy I leave behind."
The legacy Gore leaves behind is one that few running backs in NFL history can match.
After departing for a two-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts in 2015, Gore went on to play for the Miami Dolphins in 2018, Buffalo Bills in 2019 and New York Jets in 2020. He did not play in 2021.
With all of those stops added together, Gore retires as the league's third-leading rusher, posting 16,000 yards on 3,735 carries for his 16-year career. Both of those totals trail only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton in league record books. Gore added 81 rushing touchdowns, 484 receptions for 3,985 yards and 18 receiving scores.
Gore said in April he intended to retire a Niner, and York had said multiple times since Gore's departure that the team would be happy to make that happen when the time came.
The announcement that Gore will join the team's Hall of Fame was a natural addition to Gore's retirement announcement. He will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2026.
"This organization will always be a part of me, one that I will forever associate myself with," Gore said. "I will talk about San Francisco as 'we' and 'us' for the rest of my life and will support the 49ers and The Faithful in every way possible."